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Our Kids’ Mental Health During Corona Times

by Aditi Misra

It is the summer of 2020, the parks are empty, the cycle tracks have no cycles – we don’t see any children on the skateboards, the happy squeal of laughter doesn’t waft into our windows, the children are indoors. COVID 19 has created a situation where everybody is inside the house, away from the danger of Corona, away from offices, away from schools, away from shops – everything is shut.

Adults are resilient

We can deal with these things, we can deal with closure, we can deal with work from home, we are sort of toughened – so to say – for lack of a better word.  Even adults are going through tremendous pressure now as this is almost week 10 after lockdown.  It has not been easy for some, it has been stressful, it has been tough times of anxiety.  People who are outdoorsy have felt almost suffocated.

In the midst of all this, what is happening to our children.

A child who went to school, met his or her friends, had a good time, of course studied also, but the camaraderie , the jokes, the laughter, the running, the sports, the music, dance, functions, events, debates, assemblies – all that has come to a standstill.  Schools have done their bit, by beaming into their home classes so that there is some academic engagement so that the curriculum moves forward because we don’t know how long it is going to last, we don’t know how severe it may be so children must be prepared and teachers need to stay connected with their classes.  In all of this, I think the hardest hit are the children.  Why, because they are still very young.  They have got used to a certain style of living, of enjoying, of going out and meeting friends, having a good time, going for a walk, going for a run.  And now suddenly they have been closed in.  But classes are happening but they can’t step out. 

It is quite natural that children should go through some sort of stress and some sort of anxiety.  This cannot be ignored; it cannot be brushed under the carpet. 

So what do we as adults need to do?  Lets take it step by step

  • So I would advise the adults of the households, the uncles or aunts or the parents to have open conversation about how they are also feeling stressed.  There is nothing wrong with being stressed, or anxious or angry, depressed or sad.  There is nothing wrong with it. 
  • It is important to talk about it.  Because if it is not talked about, it stays bottled in and that is not very healthy.  Talk about it.  Say that you are feeling stressed out, say that you are missing going outdoors, you are missing meeting a friend, you are missing the morning coffee with a group of friends.  Children are missing their samosa from the cafeteria.  The more you talk, the less you feel stressed.  It is I think pretty well known that if you talk about something, you tend to find solutions or you tend to lighten up. The more you bottle up , the more the stress. So conversation is very important.  It can be between a student and a teacher or a child and his parents.  No one should think that it is bad to feel stressed, it is okay to feel stressed. 
  • My third lesson is to feel and talk about gratitude. It is a good idea to create gratitude Jar within the family and once a week put in one word that you are grateful for, it could be Food, computer, parents, AC, it could be conversation, it could be TV – the list is endless.  Just put it down.  After every four weeks, if you are a family of four, open up the little jar and read out the sixteen blessing that you are born with and are living with.  Trust me, it will make you feel good. 
  • The next stress buster which works wonder is some sort of exercise because naturally children have lot of energy, it used to be expended in walking to the bus stop, getting into the bus, going to the school, running about here and there, going for physical education, assembly, going for dance, whatever they were involved with.  All that has somehow come to a standstill.  So there has to be some element of physical exercise within the flat. Yes, I said it.  There has to be.  Now What can that be?  Just pick it off – It could be music and you dance to it – the great stress buster and good physical exercise. It could be Yoga, if you know it Or If you can watch something online and pick up those Asanas. 

Having said this, everybody has their own other stress busters, which may not be physical.  It could be art, music, listening to podcasts or reading books.  While doing all of this, please remember that there has to be some physical exercise not just to expend energy or destress but also exercise builds your immunity and that is of  foremost importance  now when you have to remain healthy and make sure your immune system is ready to withstand any infections.

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We, as educators, are spending hours and hours creating content and then taking it to the students in a fun way. Online education is a new thing for all of us and we are trying our best to strike a balance.

While online classes are held for the children to keep in touch with academics, to keep abreast with the curriculum. It has created several other problems and I think we need to discuss that as well. 

One is of course, the eye strain.  So, most schools that I know of, used to have about four classes through the day of about 45 – 50 mins each.  And After each class there was a 15 – 20 mins break.  The purpose of this break was not to rush into the next TV channel or start watching something on the iPad or start checking WhatsApp messages. 

  • The purpose was that you shut your eyes, you blink many times, you go into a dark room or just rub your hands, when they become warm, just cover your eyes with them.  These are ways to destress the eyes.  Important to reiterate this, eyes will be strained with so much of online classes.
  •  The second way to handle eye strain is of course, clichéd, good healthy diet.  I think now perforce we are eating healthier food, there is hardly any take out, there is no eating out. So whatever experiments are happening in the kitchen with the parents, with the children, are generally very healthy.  So, I think just keep an eye out on providing enough vitamins so that the strain on the eyes is negated. 
  • The third way to negate eye strain is to ensure that for the rest of the day, the amount of TV watching or video game playing or ipad is reduced considerably to balance off.  This is something again that I have always believed children are very bright, very quick on the uptake, very intelligent.  They just have to be reasoned out.  So when you reason out with your child and say that we have not brought in the Corona, we have not created the system but when it has happened and your school has no other recourse but to send you classes online, there has to be an essential agreement that you cannot be spend therefore another 2 hours watching TV or looking at an ipad.  There has to be something else, may be a board game, reading a book or something which takes the child off the screen.

In a situation where we cannot do much about the situation of Corona and Covid-19, what we can do is find ways of mitigating the circumstances and the fallouts of the situation.  So, first advice I will repeat is since you cannot do nothing about it, count your blessings, stay cheerful and happy – nothing can beat this mantra.  There is so much to be thankful for if you sit down to write it, your page will finish and your list will not.  Lots to be thankful for.  Second, that in a situation, where you cannot avoid online classes, try not to use too much of online entertainment so that your eyes are not affected more than they should be. 
So, stay healthy, Stay Fit and look after yourself well. 

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Aditi Misra is a career educator since 35 years. She is an Alumnus of DPS RK Puram and Lady Shriram college. She’s worked at several DPSs - RK Puram, Vasant Kunj, Dubai and now heads DPS Gurgaon since 2001. She’s received the National Award from CBSE. She’s been a master trainer for CBSE. She’s authored and ideated several books for children. Her hobbies and interests included classical Indian music and dance and reading.

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1 comment

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Sukhwant Singh Thaper June 3, 2020 - 8:58 am

Commendable tips given by you.

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