UNICEF reports that the mental health of millions of children worldwide has been put at risk, with at least one in seven forced to remain at home under various public health restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 330 million youngsters have been stuck at home, till March 2021, for at least nine months, since the virus spread uncontrollably this time last year. It has become difficult for parents to calm their children's anxieties because of the uncertainty and stress in their own lives.
Most parents are unaware of the stress their kids are struggling with, some of the symptoms to notice are excessive arguments, refusals, opposition, defiance, or withdrawal. During this, parental support and understanding plays a crucial role.
Stress among children could be witnessed due to multiple reasons. However, the pandemic and its effect have changed the ways children grow, learn, play, behave, interact, and manage emotions. The major effect of lifestyle changes and absolute isolation has aggravated behavioural problems in young children. This might lead to emotional breakdowns as well as reluctance to return to school. This occurs mostly as a result of children's loss of routines and contact with peers and mentors.
Here are some tips by experts on how parents could help children reduce mental stress:
Identify the signs of stress
The first step to healing your child is to identify the signs of stress and its triggers. Know your child better, try to identify the patterns in his/her day to day activities. If you ever come across any symptoms such as anxiety, sleeplessness, fatigue, or loss of appetite in your child, try to look into the matter immediately.
Accept failures & motivate kids
As a parent, it is important for you to teach kids to accept failures and learn from them. Parents should be the first point of contact for kids to rely on and discuss their fears, feelings and issues. Parents have to be gentle and understanding towards their kids and help them cope during the learning phase. Also, encourage your child to share their feelings with you.
Take time out for your children
During exam time, students usually take a lot of stress, which is why parents must interact with their children regularly. Most stress usually comes from a lack of confidence about performance in the exams. Never force your child to meet unrealistic and high expectations.
Keep your child in contact with their friends
Physical distancing from friends can be a major cause of distress for the children. Encourage them to talk to their friends regularly.
Create a routine
Even if restricted at home, parents can ensure some consistent daily routine. It's usually beneficial if parents and children can collaborate on some activities. Parents should also schedule their children's responsibilities one at a time, include them in various household activities, and teach them about hygiene and social etiquette. Make sure to include food rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals to boost their immunity and keep them fit and healthy.
According to UNICEF’s flagship report 'The State of the World's Children 2021; On My Mind: promoting, protecting and caring for children’s mental health', Children and young people could feel the impact of COVID-19 on their mental health and well-being for many years to come.
To ensure a healthy mental state, keep your children engaged and positive, encourage them to socialise with their friends and classmates virtually under their parent's supervision. Also, if you notice distractions & different behaviour often, consult an expert. With proper guidance and support, children can easily manage their issues.
Sometimes it might get harder for parents to understand their child's emotions and actions, in such cases experts suggest taking assessment and counselling.
Authored by Shuchita Dua, Clinical Head (Online Vertical) at Mom's Belief. Views expressed are personal.
First Published: IST