How the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our children


The COVID-19 pandemic brought a complex array of challenges which had mental health repercussions for everyone, including children and adolescents. Grief, fear, uncertainty, social isolation, increased screen time, and parental fatigue have negatively affected the mental health of children. Friendships and family support are strong stabilising forces for children, but the COVID-19 pandemic had also disrupted them.
Most children have struggled emotionally and academically. Here are a few prime areas listed below:

Screen addiction
Being glued to the screen as the only means of entertainment has caused many children to get spectacles though there has been no such genetic history. Weaning the child off the gadget has been a major concern for most parents.

Sleep cycle
A routine sleep cycle is established only once sleep hygiene is maintained.  This refers to having a fixed time to sleep and wake up each day. This further leads to individuals having a fixed biological clock or time that they wake up. The pandemic has led to children having no fixed time or schedule and even now they struggle to wake up for school/college.

Social anxiety
Some children have never attended formal school earlier and, thus, meeting friends or new people now causes them anxiety. Some prefer to stay alone or not socialise with anyone.

Social networking apps
Many kids have made friends with strangers on social media who they now term as their closest circle. Being a part of these online circles, adolescents do not feel the need to leave their comfort zone and interact with people around them.

Academic concerns
Most parents struggle to teach their toddlers how to scribble and trace alphabets and numbers. The resistance and reluctance level in children is very high as they are new to formal schooling, some having entered at six years of age for the first time.

Speech delays
Many parents have raised concerns about their children not framing sentences age appropriately or speaking monosyllabically. Lack of adequate exposure and age-appropriate peers could be a factor here.

Attention deficit
One of the most common concerns faced include parents saying, “My child does not listen at all.” There could be many reasons to this, some include, inattention, preoccupation, defensiveness or lack of interest. Setting family rules and goals could help to maintain an adequate equilibrium.

Weight gain
Lack of dietary discipline, along with no routine form of exercise, can be two very important reasons for the same. Later, in some cases, this could lead to reduced self-esteem caused due to poor body image issues.

Eating disorders
Disordered eating related to stress, poor nutritional habits, and food fads are relatively common problems among the youth. In addition, eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, are on the increase among teenage girls and young women and often run in families. This includes either starving oneself and not eating at all or eating and then forcefully vomiting out what has been eaten to avoid the guilt of eating.

Aggression
Most adolescents today are labelled as “stubborn” by their parents. They  often refuse to listen to their parents and communication is a form of barter system with their parents, which is often solely need-based.

Typically, about one in six children experience a developmental delay. But children born during the pandemic, a 2022 study has found, have nearly double the risk of developmental delays in communication and social development compared to babies born prior to the pandemic.
It is understandable that a lot of delays and behavioural concerns have arisen since the pandemic. However, it would be incorrect to not seek help presuming that things would get better over time. It is important for parents and caregivers to observe behavioural changes and seek help if the concern has been persisting for over a month.

Alisha Lalljee is a psychologist, special educator & psychotherapist practising in Bandra, Mumbai

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