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Children and adolescent mental health during COVID 19 pandemic.
Filed on 2020-06-23 | Last updated on 2020-07-08 08:26:26

(MENAFN - VPS Healthcare ) Children and adolescents are one of the most affected lots during this pandemic. The unprecedented situation has disrupted nearly every aspect of their lives, including physical & mental health, development, learning, behavior, and social relationships.
A shift from regular schooling to online learning, absence of usual sporting events and separation from friends are more bound to make them feel stressed and anxious. Children are normally sensitive to any changes in routine or environment. So isolation brought in by the pandemic will see significant changes in their mood and behavior. So any fear and anxiety that affects an adult equally affect a child. Misinformation, rumors and information overload will make things worse. It would affect their sleep and appetite, and they might withdraw or become clingy or cranky.
While there is an increased risk of the virus, it aggravates their inability to understand the current predicament with conventional methods. However, all children are intuitive and are better than adults at gauging the situation by observing and modelling others'' behaviors.
Younger children would have high energy, but they are unable to express themselves. Their thoughts and emotions would manifest through behaviors like throwing things around, clinging to their parents, bed-wetting, erratic sleeping etc. The fact that the psychological impact on children and adolescents could potentially be neglected has exacerbating effects. Hence it is a relevant area to be given immediate attention by the government and authorities.
One of the best ways to deal with this is to understand and accept the fact that the pandemic situation will be difficult for children and their behavior is warranted given the situation. For their growth and to nurture the relationship between parent and children, parents'' feelings and reactions need to be controlled and managed appropriately so that they don''t lose the trust in you as a parent.
The current situation might warrant different strategies: Listen to them or engage with them; Help them to accept things and lead them with a model; Create spaces or opportunities for interaction; Maintain a routine by encouraging them to create a flexible but consistent structure for their activities like learning, playing, eating and sleeping; Try to incorporate some creative and welcoming distractions like cooking meals together, have a family game night every few days and encourage them to learn a new skill or rediscover an old hobby etc.
With older children and adolescents, even if you are anxious for their safety, it would be helpful to communicate with them on equal ground. It doesn''t mean invoking your parental authority or privileges. They are also likely to understand the situation by themselves, so sharing your concerns with them would make them more empathetic.
Avoid corporal punishment and instead, use creative ways that incorporate negative/positive reinforcements to correct their behavior. As much as they need parental assistance, children also like to make decisions for themselves required to enhance their self-esteem. Allow them to take decision by themselves and correct them when needed.
It is also important that you take care of yourself. Pay attention to your feelings and emotions – accept that it is normal to feel anxious during these times of uncertainty. Parents dealing with their emotions effectively will set a great example to children. It will help them to support their children''s well-being as well.
[This article is written by Dr. Reena Thomas who is a clinical psychologist at Medeor Hospital in Dubai. She has been actively providing psychological support to the needy since the beginning of the pandemic as part of a mental health helpline- VPS Mindtalk]
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