A young boy had been insisting on getting a ‘machine gun’ to kill those responsible for spreading coronavirus across the world. Initially, his parents regarded it as a childish outburst but when it persisted, they consulted a counselor. That is when they realised that the child was bringing out his intense frustration of having been locked in for almost eight months — his parents had just not allowed him to step out!
Over the years, the integration of multiple intelligence, life skills and emotional intelligence into the curriculum has transformed our approach to learning, paving way for the holistic growth of children. However, the pandemic has affected the whole education system.
As schools are still shut, children are missing out on the life-skills learning that was associated with going to school, such as jostling for a seat in the school bus, being scolded by the watchman or teacher, competing for a bat or racket to play, facing and dealing with failure, participation in annual day, sports or dramatics. Therefore, it is absolutely essential we devise ways and means to supplement the loss of these activities.
Human beings are essentially social animals, and children especially thrive on social interactions. Long period of isolation may create a vacuum in their overall growth, and some children may find it difficult to adjust when regular schooling starts. If one can ensure a holistic mind-body engagement, this phase of isolation may pass over smoothly. Listed here are a few activities as examples, and each parent can innovate and derive their own activities, which are age-appropriate to their child.
Some options include learning a music instrument or singing, home dramatics (particularly role reversal with child acting like parent), games involving identification of emotions and then discussing how each emotion should be handled, discussing long term career goals (even with small children) and planning next year’s summer vacation. You could also brainstorm about anger management, do creative work such as making PPTs or craft, play with pets, psychoanalyse difficult classmates and their behaviour, go on long drives to some green areas, or just sit around and playing dumb charades or Antakshari.
Take suggestions from child before deciding any activity, and keep the activities away from screens. Giving positive strokes whenever a child does something different or involves in helping with domestic work goes a long way in boosting morale. Whenever possible, encourage the child to call up some obliging teacher and have a general talk about how things are. Avail telephonic sessions if the school has a counselor.
At the same time it is important to periodically observe any changes in behaviour of the child. Possible areas of concern would be a child getting unduly irritable, withdrawing from normal interactions, constantly playing one particular game alone, neglecting his or her grooming, becoming secretive and hiding things, and in some cases showing extreme anger outbursts.
One should not neglect such changes if they occur more than two to three times in a span of one or two weeks. Activities like the ones suggested above can act as preventive steps. If these symptoms persist despite parental intervention, then it is advisable to take the help of teachers, counselors or child-psychologists.
If neglected, some children may move towards depression. It manifests in the form of hopelessness, irritability, losing interest, loss of weight, fatigue, sense of worthlessness, and inability to express internal emotions. Those unable to express their feelings suffer the most and some even go through ‘masked depression’ — they put on a positive demeanor while going into a bottomless pit of their own emotions. All these can be prevented.
As long as the lock-down for children lasts, it is our duty to ensure that their overall growth and well-being is sustained. Let us all put in our efforts for every child around us.
(The author is a senior counsellor based in Bengaluru)