New Delhi: Children and adolescents are the future of any country, but today, they are living an uncertain life due to the pandemic. Although we all have suffered disruptions to our lives due to the disease, our young humans probably are the most affected part of the demographics. They are physically more vulnerable to the contagion than healthy adults and are facing disruptions which are coming in the way of their natural milestone developments.
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Childhood and adolescence are a time when physical, mental, emotional and psychological development happens at a very rapid pace. For these young people, every day is about learning new things and comprehending their own understanding of the world, as well as their surroundings. This is also the time when they learn about their own identities, by interacting with other children and adults at school, playgrounds, where they learn about communities, relationships, society and environment which in itself is a very crucial part of learning to interface with the world.
The current situation of COVID-19 has restricted children of all this learning and personal development. While adolescents maybe are able to understand the reasons behind the current times, the younger children could be finding it tougher to fully understand the situation looming all around us. With not being able play outdoors, meet their friends, the ritual of going to a physical school and extended hours of screen-time for which they have to rely on devices for education, entertainment and socialisation. This can lead to varied emotional outbursts, mental health concerns or acts of concerning behaviours which can be worrying and frustrating to households which comprise of adults and young people.
While most families are going through the full gamut of emotions right now. Gratitude, worry, fear, love, compassion, frustration, restlessness, uncertainty, confusion and so on – a kaleidoscope of feelings. A fluctuating pattern of emotions and situation that changes radically with the slightest nudge. Therefore as an adult with young humans at home our biggest question is how do we help children deal with the emotions of something that we can’t wrap our heads around ourselves?
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Research shows the resilience children have is influenced not only by the adversity itself but also by the emotional responses of the parents. Studies have found that parents generally fall into one of two categories when it comes to the way they deal with their children’s emotions: emotional coaches or emotional dismissers. Often, your style was passed on to you by your own parents and has a lot to do with their beliefs about whether emotions are best avoided or embraced. Hence how we adults handle our own emotions determines how we teach our young ones to cope with theirs, an important fact that we can’t ignore especially during the times of an ongoing pandemic.
Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First: The classic airplane oxygen mask rule — in which you should place an oxygen mask on yourself first before assisting others — is paramount during this time, experts say. However, because adults may not be able to fully address their own mental health issues during this time, they should simply do their best to model a sense of emotional well-being when they are around their kids, even if they too are stressed, anxious, and afraid.
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Positivity: Children and young people shape their thoughts after their adults and their behaviour and words impact them psychologically. For instance, a young person might become paranoid or experience trauma during the pandemic simply because she/he has been witness to the panic and fear of the adults. Hence, while at home, adults need to use positive physical and verbal language to keep them happy.
Routine: Even when young people are not going to school or stepping out to play, it is important for them to have a routine. They might feel no urgency to wake up early as there is no school but, adults must emphasize that they should have a schedule comprising of personal hygiene, household, educational and recreational activities throughout the day. Even if the routine be more flexible than a school time-table, it has to be there.
Prevent Rumours: Young people are prone to accepting information on face value. Hence, we should not share too many facts and numbers with them especially those related to topics which are beyond their comprehension. We should only share authentic, necessary and as far as possible, positive information with them.
Engagement: Young people are deprived of the opportunity to spend time with their friends. That can lead to feelings of isolation and lack of importance. Adults must make it a point to engage them in conversations, games or activities as far as possible during this period. Give them their space, but ensure that they are not withdrawing into a shell or displaying behaviours which impact their bio-rhythms.
Dr. Jennifer Dragonette, the executive director of a mental health rehabilitation facility for teens called Newport Academy, told POPSUGAR, an international lifestyle magazine that ,
We know that the incidence of both mental health and physical health problems increase when there are traumatic events in childhood. And it is still unclear how traumatic these current events will prove to be. As with any trauma, it is critical that caring adults are willing to meet their children where they are, listen and validate their concerns, and provide a stable, loving foundation so our young people can begin to heal.
And that is clearly easier said than done.
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.