World Mental Health Day: Covid-19 has changed childhood for kids. Give their mind some extra TLC

People across all age groups have been affected during the pandemic, but it is the children who are silently suffering. It’s time to take immediate action and help them out!
nail biting habit in children
Indulge in games and activities with an autistic child. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Ms Vijayalakshmi K Published: 10 Oct 2021, 08:15 am IST
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From a world without a mask to a fully covered one, from playgrounds to house arrest, the world has seen an unimaginable shift in the mental state of people across ages. Mental health in children has been impacted in many ways.

  • Children who found comfort in speaking to friends and venting out their problems have no outlet
  • While the use of mobile phones was strictly prohibited/moderated earlier, it has now become mandatory for children to learn
  • Loneliness and isolation gave way to many disorders like depression, self-esteem, self-confidence, anxiety to name a few
  • Space constraints in the houses lead to a feeling of suffocation and overcrowding
  • As parents were facing their own challenges, they found it difficult to address the child’s problem
  • Children with nature-specific issues like introversion and extroversion had their own share of adjusting difficulties
  • While children were getting used to the gadget usage for attending online sessions, most of them turned to gadget addictions which seems to be the biggest challenge for mental health professionals today to find a respite from this outage
post covid symptoms in children
Covid-19 has affected the mental health of children. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Online education and mental health

The new regular changes have impacted children the most in terms of settling with online education mode, and being locked up in between four walls. This has given rise to issues such as stress, fear, anxiety, depression, adjustment issues, apprehensions towards the future, surfacing of the previous and past undiagnosed and untreated mental health disorders, fear, phobia, and obsessions of contamination, fear of physical interactions, fear of uncertainty leading to helplessness. 

In addition, the pandemic has also served as a trigger for the predisposed mental health ailments in children that can take longer to heal, if not addressed.

Is there any solution?

With time, adequate and timely intervention, children will show slow yet steady improvement with these challenges. Providing a healthy environment at home, where parents play a significant role in addressing the precise fear and anxieties, giving importance to listening and showing empathy, being non-judgemental and accepting the child with the issue will help alleviate the problem to a certain extent.

Well-being is a balance between physical and emotional health. To achieve the balance, parents and teachers must focus on balanced growth and development. This can be promoted through physical activities, mental abilities and most importantly, emotional support when the child needs it. In the present scenario, where children find themselves more involved in gadgets over going out and spending their energy in play, parents and teachers can sensitise children about the negative impact of screen time on the brain, due to which the child can face repercussions.

how does being a parent of a special needs child affect you?
Parents have to make an active effort to take care of their child’s mental health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
These can be the side effects of excess screen time for kids
  1. Information overload
  2. Issues with vision and concentration
  3. Relationship issues
  4. Procrastination
  5. Increased irritability, anger, and laziness
How can parents help?

Addressing these issues begins with the parents. They need to lead by example and be conscious of their behaviour vis-à-vis their ward.

  1. A parent should be a good listener and show empathy when a child wants to discuss any topic
  2. Parents should avoid comparing children with siblings and other children
  3. Children emulate actions from their parents. Hence parents must display virtues of tolerance in a heated situation
  4. Parents should be non-judgemental to win the child’s confidence, which will help the child to associate and communicate effectively and freely
  5. Don’t wait or hesitate to seek help from mental health professionals when you identify something unusual in your child or something alarming
Strike a balance between physical and mental health for your children amidst the pandemic! Image courtesy: Shutterstock
The last word

Timely help and proper intervention can contribute to a healthy mental and physical upbringing by parents and teachers alike.

Schools can provide supportive platforms for children to share and talk about their feelings and fears to mental health professionals. They can render massive help by emphasising the importance of speaking out when disturbed or confused. This will help prevent and manage a lot of mental health issues that children could be facing. 

Teaching a child life skills like anger management, handling stress, managing time, and decision-making at home through simple daily home-based activities can go a long way in coping with the child.

The child learns to manage and regulate emotions early in life, which reduces the long-term risk to a large extent in the long term prevention of permanent damage. Let’s not wait for the issue to be out of control.

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Rather, follow the principle – “Prevention is better than cure”, thus help a child from the harrowing experience of mental distress.

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About the Author

Ms Vijayalakshmi K is the Head of Student Wellness and Counselling (Disha), The Narayana Group ...Read More

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