The COVID-19 outbreak and consequent lockdowns have changed the way we function in the world and brought us face-to-face with a lot of uncertainty and fear. Children could possibly be the silent sufferers of the pandemic as they are too young to understand or process their thoughts and emotions, something that even adults have been struggling to navigate through in the past year. Toddlers and young children particularly need dedicated attention and care as the brain is still in the process of formation, and high stress and social isolation can lead to unwanted deep-seated issues later in life. Dr Neeraj Raj B, Consultant Psychiatrist, Aster RV Hospital, explains how the pandemic has impacted the little ones and how to ease their mental burden…
Impact Of The Pandemic On Little Ones
In one of the earliest studies conducted during the ongoing pandemic, it was found that younger children (three to six years old) were more likely than older children to exhibit symptoms of clinginess and feel dread about family members getting infected. Older youngsters ( six to 18 years old), on the other hand, were more prone to inattention. Sleep problems, nightmares, poor eating, irritability, inattention and separation anxiety have been commonly observed among children during the pandemic.
Guidelines For Parents To Ease Their Children’s Mental Burden
Toddlers and younger children demand and require more attention from their parents and it is a key part of their early development. Parents must set aside time to provide their undivided attention and reassurance to their kids. They need their parents’ physical presence and must be encouraged to engage in more indoor activities.
• Parents can explain the pandemic in an age-appropriate way, using simple terminology. Children can learn about safety precautions and their role in avoiding the spread of the virus. Role-playing, gentle reminders of COVID safety behaviour in a soothing and loving tone, fun cue cards and audiovisual material can be used. This will help the child feel more in control of the situation and ease stress.
• Good behaviour can be rewarded with positive reinforcement such as praise and loving statements. Avoid using material reinforcement.
• Negative reinforcement/punishment for bad behaviour must be avoided as far as possible. In such cases, simply ignore the child and do not give them any attention.
• Set a good example: Children look up to their parents and when parents are able to cope with stress better, that sets the child up for better emotional regulation in the future.
• Avoid heated discussion or debates, particularly about the COVID pandemic while at home. Children are silent absorbers and can easily be affected by such discussions even if they don’t openly express […]