The pandemic has affected children’s social development. Help them bounce back

The pandemic has brought forth various challenges, particularly for children. Will they affect your child’s social development? Let’s find out!
Be gentle with children
Communicate calmly with your childen. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr Gurudutt Bhat Published: 26 Oct 2021, 13:49 pm IST
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One fine day, in the breezy, sultry spring of March 2020, children worldwide were informed that schools would remain shut, until further notice. They were stopped from meeting their friends, going out and playing like the earlier times. In fact, shops, offices, public transport, parks and everything else was shut down. Just the thought of it seemed apocalyptic and impossible in 2019, but come 2020, the entire world was brought to a standstill because of a virus.

This life-altering situation brought on by the pandemic has been immensely challenging for adults, children, and teenagers, irrespective of their age. Children, especially infants and toddlers, are too young to decipher what is happening in their surroundings. Hence, it is all the more difficult for them to deal with these trying times. 

pandemic and children
Since schools were shut and outdoor activities were restricted, children felt extremely confined. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Covid-19 has not only affected the general physical health of children, but also their overall development from the imposed social confinement for an indefinite time.

 With schools reopening in the latter half of 2021 for the majority, let’s take a look at how the pandemic has panned out for children, in terms of their development.

The significant learning gap for children in the pandemic

The pandemic is a social crisis for children growing up in a world that is facing a public health crisis. Due to the closure of educational institutes, 1.6 billion students in 190 countries have been directly impacted. For children, brief periods out of education can have a lasting and adverse effect. Many have forgotten what they had initially learnt in school.

Although online education has taken over, we must not forget that it still is not a viable option for many living in remote areas or for those who are not financially well-off. Not every child has the privilege of an appropriate environment meant for pursuing education from home. Such children have been affected the most, which in turn, has impacted their intellectual development. 

The impact on mental health

Multiple reports have revealed that the most common psycho-social and behavioral problems among children and adolescents in the pandemic were:

  • Inattention
  • Clingy behaviour
  • Distraction
  • Fear of asking questions about the pandemic. 

The change was more prominent in those with pre-existing mental health conditions. 

It has become all the more important for parents to strike a balance between physical and mental health for their children amidst the pandemic! Image courtesy: Shutterstock Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Children everywhere were not getting the same social exposure that they used to get in schools. There’s definitely been a lack of playtime with their peers, and interaction in class, which has affected children’s social skills. Pediatricians saw an increased prevalence of delayed speech and language in kids. 

It has been proven time and again that past traumatic or unnatural childhood experiences have a negative impact on an individual’s development. 

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The past one and a half year has brought in isolation and uncertainty. Many children don’t have a healthy atmosphere at home owing to parental angst, family arguments, etc. It is also seen that work and family pressure has led parents to spend less time with their children. Due to this, some have developed feelings of loneliness.

For many, the pandemic has caused an unhealthy lifestyle. Online classes have disrupted the daily schedule and sleeping cycle for children and their parents (more so for toddlers). Some schools have also overburdened students with excess assignments, which has not helped. Sitting for long hours in front of a screen for classes has taken a toll on every child, with Zoom fatigue setting in.

pandemic and children
Don’t leave them alone, and be a friend to your kids. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
How can we help the children bounce back from the social development impact of the pandemic?

Talk to your children and try to understand them. Spend as much time possible with them, and learn about their concerns:

  • Be there for them as a parent and confidant
  • Give them their space when needed, especially in the case of adolescents. Don’t over-impose
  • Help them stay fit with a proper diet
  • Engage them in exercise. Perform low to moderate intensity workouts together
  • Teach them Covid-19 hygiene protocols, which are important now more than ever, since schools are gradually re-opening
  • Show them how to wear a mask and get a comfortable fit for them

Lastly, the pandemic is a time that has struck us all like a storm, for which none of us were prepared. Help your child and yourself by trying to walk down this road together, taking one day at a time and figuring things out.

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About the Author

Dr Gurudutt Bhat, Consultant Paediatrics, Fortis Hospital, Kalyan, Mumbai ...Read More

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