Published: 23rd July 2021
Communication can minimise negative impact on kids during COVID-19: AIIMS doctor
According to the doctor, COVID-19 has affected the mental wellbeing of children, depriving them of the emotionally fulfilling environment, important for their normal growth and development
During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is important for adults to encourage children to communicate their views on issues related to them, said Dr Rajesh Sagar, Professor of the Department of Psychiatry, AIIMS and Member, Central Mental Health Authority.
While speaking about the effects of the pandemic and its impact on children, Dr Sagar, in a statement by the union health ministry, said that the pandemic has altered their normal activities, their schools are shut, the education has shifted to online and their interaction with peers is restricted and limited. There are also some children who have lost one or both parents or relatives or caregivers to COVID and it is important for adults to keep a watch on their childrens' behaviour, he said. "All these factors can affect the mental wellbeing of children, depriving them of the emotionally fulfilling environment, important for their normal growth and development. The surrounding environment affects the emotion of children. At times, children internalize a situation. Panic, illness, or death of near and dear ones can affect them adversely and at times, they may not be able to express their fears, anxiety, or worries," he added. "During the current crisis, it is important that adults encourage children to communicate their views, and perspectives on various issues. For this, they must be provided with an enabling environment," he said.
Children can also be encouraged to express themselves through drawing, paintings, and other mediums. "The impact of the pandemic on children cannot be addressed with direct questions; caregivers need to be gentle while communicating with children as they may be unaware of what is happening to them internally. So, it is important to encourage usage of creative ways in understanding them but communicate directly when discussing difficult topics, like infection, death, and so on," Dr Sagar added.
He further emphasised that the first five years are crucial in a child's life and lack of a positive environment, stimulation, or social interactions can affect them adversely. There is a need to build a fun-filled, environment where children can be engaged in various activities, Dr Sagar said, adding that even online education should focus on activity-based learning. "I strongly feel that we need to devise methods that are enjoyable and safe as well so that we can minimise the impact of the pandemic on children," he said. Speaking about older children and the feeling of uncertainty, Dr Sagar said they should be reminded that they are not alone in this. "It is also important for the parents to accept the reality and pass it on to the children while supporting them throughout the process. The education boards are being flexible in taking exams and so, I think, we will reach a point when this virus will not impact their education and career choice so adversely," he said. Regarding parenting during the pandemic, he said that for parents to be able to engage children, they need to be in a positive frame of mind themselves. Parents need to find ways to calm themselves, he said, adding that they need to streamline their daily activities so that they can take out time for children.