Covid-19: Psycho-social effects of the pandemic in children

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In this digital era, children have access to information through various platforms including social media, news etc which can lead to stress.

By Dr. Suresh Kumar Panuganti

It is natural for any child to feel stressed, anxious, apprehensive and get worried about unnatural circumstances like pandemic similar to an adult.

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Some of the challenges children face and continue to face during this pandemic are:

  • Change in their routine; meeting their peers and friends
  • Break in continuity of school and the learning process
  • Lack of routine health checks
  • Increased screen time and decreased interaction with others
  • Missing important events like birthdays, festivals and any family gatherings
  • Loss of a parent or a family member or a relative due to Covid
  • Parental loss of job or security
  • Instability at home

Why?

In this digital era, children have access to information through various platforms including social media, news etc which can lead to stress. This stress can be enhanced when they are not allowed to go out, meet their friends, attend school and more so while the parents are themselves stressed and display it.

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Psycho-social effects on children

Children under 3:

  • Reduced interactiveness and delayed development of speech
  • Depression – prefer to stay alone
  • Anger and Hyperactivity
  • Separation anxiety while the parents are in isolation/quarantine
  • Clinging and excessive dependence
  • Fear or excessive sadness

School going children

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  • Anger and hyperactivity due to missing their routine and lack of physical interaction with peers
  • Violence either due to excessive screen time or watching violence and/or abuse of any nature at home
  • Unexplained abnormal behaviour due to boredom or excessive time on mobile phones
  • Anxiety due to lack of certainty
  • Stigma of the disease
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Nightmares, being withdrawn

Adolescents:

  • Anger
  • Conflicts
  • Anxiety to lack of certainty about exams and their future
  • Nightmares
  • Insomnia
  • Panic attacks

Helping children cope with stress

Staying calm, and actually listening to their concerns, providing comfort and reassurance.

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Role of parents?

  • The main role and responsibility of parents is to provide and nurture a safe, secure and healthy environment where they can be themselves and develop to their full potential
  • To spend as much time as possible with the kids to reduce the anxiety
  • To stay calm and composed and avoid verbal, physical abuse or violence at home even with other family members
  • To disclose the right information at the right time in an age appropriate terminology
  • Involve the kids in daily chores based on their age
  • Have a creative time for arts and crafts and to reduce the screen time
  • Be a role model for your own kids
  • Practice family pot lunches or dinners
  • Keep gadgets away from the dining table
  • Monitor what your child watches on TV/screen
  • Remember all emotions are valid; don’t brush them off or negate it altogether
  • Fix a sleeptime. Maintain sleep hygiene

Role of teachers?

  • Providing correct, appropriate knowledge
  • Quell the myths and dis-beliefs
  • Identify any abnormal behaviour whilst in the class like lack of attentiveness or hyper activity
  • Give small, plausible breaks in the screen time while in the class
  • Encourage non academic activities while in the class
  • Regular interaction with parents

Role of Pediatricians:

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  • Parental education about developmental patterns and developmental needs
  • Recognize physical manifestations of mental ill-health
  • Identify predisposing factors
  • Initiate early therapy

Remember. This too shall pass. Let’s not ever give up.

(The author is Lead Consultant – Pediatric Critical Care and Pediatrics, Yashoda Hospitals, Hyderabad. The article is for informational purposes only. Please consult health experts and medical professionals before starting any therapy or medication. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)

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