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Children and mental health in post Covid era

Mood swings, screen addiction, tantrums, meltdowns, learning difficulties, anxiety, inattention, suicidal thoughts, withdrawal from relationships, feeling nauseous, lethargic and many other such indicators in children and adolescents validate the fact that Covid-19 pandemic took a toll on children. This could be due to limited understanding of the pandemic and the coping strategies.

Vincent Ashish Moses
Principal, The Srijan
School, New Delhi

 

 

Lack of physical class activities, isolated learning environment resulted in a range of emotional changes and will be witnessed in the times to come. We are likely to find cases where children might resist going to school, feel disconnected from peers and face difficulty in establishing rapport with their mentors. ‘Digital distress’ has led to an increased level of anxiety among the children.

Children with special needs especially Autism or Neuro cognitive disabilities are extremely vulnerable to the psychological impacts that came along with the lockdown. They are likely to show problematic behaviours such as irritability, aggression and social withdrawal. Online learning has also led to a decrease in assistance to these children as parents cannot replace special educators.

With the closure of special schools and day care centres, these children lack access to resource material, peergroup interactions and opportunities of learning and developing important social and behavioural skills. These conditions also trigger outbursts of temper, tantrums and conflict between parents and adolescents. The children who were in isolation require special attention as these children might be at risk of developing mental health problems due to grief caused by parental separation.

The children may develop feelings of sadness, loss of confidence, constant anxiety, fear of death, fear of parents’ death and fear of being isolated in the hospital which may have a very damaging effect.

As during the formative years of life, the role of parents is very crucial. Any disruption in the form of isolation from parents can have long term effects of perceived attachment of the child. It is found that separation from the primary caregivers can make a child more vulnerable and can pose a threat to a child’s mental health. The children may develop feelings of sadness, loss of confidence, constant anxiety, fear of death, fear of parents’ death and fear of being isolated in the hospital, which may have a very damaging effect.

Imposing rules and boundaries with older children will not work. Adults must understand and respect the child or the teenager. The essence of ‘self’ specially for teenagers is really important and a large part of growing up for adolescence particularly is about connecting with their groups, belongingness and activities that they do. A positive and sensitive approach to the mental health of students is a dire need, especially in the current scenario. Teachers, parents and caregivers should try to explore the inner world of the child to understand if he/she is going through some stress.

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