It is not just adults who are reeling under the fear, anxiety, and isolation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, but also children, who are having a tough time coping emotionally.
Lack of physical activities, sudden deviation from their normal routines, inability to meet loved ones for prolonged periods has raised innumerable questions in kids' minds.
Younger children might show these symptoms indicative of Covid induced stress:
- Developmental Delays: Regression in their skills and not hitting developmental milestones on time.
- Fussiness and irritability: Crying easily and frequently and difficulty in soothing.
- Irregular sleep patterns: Waking up more during the night or staying up throughout the night.
- Feeding issues: Frantic feeling, more reflux, constipation, or loose stools.
- Physical symptoms: Abdominal pain, rash, or a flare-up on the body, bedwetting even after they're potty trained.
- Separation anxiety: More clingy, withdrawn, or reluctant to explore.
- Behavioral symptoms: Hitting, biting, throwing things, and more frequent or severe tantrums.
Older children and adolescents may show different symptoms of Covid related stress such as:
- Mood Swings: Continued irritability, feelings of hopelessness or rage, and frequent conflicts with friends and family.
- Loss of Interest: Sudden lack of interest in activities previously enjoyed.
- Sleeping Challenges: Difficulty in either falling or staying asleep or feeling sleepy all the time.
- Changes in Appetite: Feeling hungry all the time or feeling full all the time.
- Challenges at School: Difficulty in memorizing, thinking rationally, or concentrating. Less interest in schoolwork and drop in academic performance.
- Changes in Appearance: Overlooking personal hygiene and grooming.
- Negative Thoughts: Talking and inquiring about death or suicide.
Here are a few ways in which you can help your kids cope with stress:
- Encourage your kid to speak freely about the emotions that he/she is undergoing. Don't be judgemental. Instead, show sympathy and concern to help them express themselves without inhibitions of being scolded or mocked.
- Address issues with clarity and honesty about the pandemic or lockdown. While you don’t want to frighten young children, there’s nothing wrong with talking about the need for taking safety precautions such as social distancing, wearing a mask, and washing their hands.
- Speak at an age-appropriate level:
If your child is young, don’t offer too much information, as this could cause their imagination to run wild and cause unrequired fear. As for older children, they will appreciate you treating them as grown-ups and being honest with them.
2. Parental Behaviour:
- Be Mindful: When your children are around, be cautious of the comments you pass about the pandemic. Children easily pick up distress signals from their parents' actions. So try to stay positive and composted around them.
- Be understanding: Your child might react adversely to not being able to meet friends, family or to go to a playground. Let them vent while you listen to them patiently. Empathize with their disappointment, and try to make them feel better by spending more time with them or making virtual calls to near and dear ones.
- Extra TLC:
Shower them with more affection. They need all your attention, hugs, and kisses more than ever.
- Virtual Playdates: While kids cannot meet their friends anytime soon, set up video conferencing meetings to interact for short times during the day.
- Special Activity: Set up a dedicated one-on-one time with your kid every day, where you do a special activity like reading, painting, playing the piano that not only comforts the child but also strengthens the family bond.
- Healthy Screen Time:
Engage your child with live, interactive learning mechanisms with peers to gain knowledge, boost their confidence skills, and aid their social development.
- Set A Routine: In the absence of physical school, things might go astray. Try to create a routine and stick to it.
- Dedicated Spaces: Keep separate places for study, work and play in your house, if possible. So, that the child feels relaxed while playing, is alert when studying, and is quiet while you are working.
5. Physical Activities:
- Healthy Body, Healthy Mind:
Simple yoga poses or aerobic exercises can be an instant mood changer. Play with softball for smaller kids or box cricket for elder ones can help them stay fit and alert. Simple games like hide-and-seek or passing-the-ball that are easy to play at home can be inculcated in daily routine.
The best way to help kids is to lead by example. Young children are sensitive and will impersonate your behaviour, so make sure you set a positive example!
- Centre for Disease Control (CDC): CDC
- World Health Organization (WHO): WHO
- Healthy Children: HealthyChildren.org - From the American Academy of Pediatrics
- Healthline: Healthline: Medical information and health advice you can trust.
- Lifespan: Rhode Island Hospitals and Health Services | Lifespan
- HelpGuide: HelpGuide.org