Stress, Trauma and Emotional drain is not just restricted to adults, even kids go through the same albeit silently. It is therefore imperative that we start talking about and preparing for the lockdown and post lockdown effects on our children.
While most schools and teachers have used the lockdown period to go online and be in touch with children, it is just not enough.
This is the time when your parenting is put to the ultimate test. With no outlets to expend their energy and much needed social needs and the already depleted parental energy due to anxiety and WFH stress, the problem is compounded.
This is especially problematic for those who are parenting single child. The only means of direct communication for such children is the parent and if you do not spend lot of time it could lead to a long-term damage to the emotional well-being of children.
Here are some of the challenges which kids might be facing which could lead to a lot of emotional drain in them.
Being at home comes with a little compromise on privacy. Children might lock themselves up in their rooms; but for how long? There is always this feeling for them that parents might just walk-in to their room anytime. They also might be worried that their private conversations with their friends or even themselves might be heard by anxious or inquisitive parents who might just be eves dropping. If they remain silent while being locked up in their rooms, they might get called out every once in a while, by their parents who want to check on their well-being. The problem here is that the child may end up feeling that parents are too nosy and are not allowing ‘me’ time which otherwise they would have got away from home. It really is a double-edged sword for the parent, on one hand you got to be sensitive to the need for privacy and on the other for the safety and well-being of your child.
Children may also be subject to physical and verbal abuse during such times. Overly stressed parents who are grappling with the anxiety of whether or not they will be able to keep their job post lockdown, the added pressure of work from home and office metrics might find themselves on the edge. Add to that the constant news feed via internet and social media about the grave consequences post lockdown might already be feeding into their vulnerabilities. Such parents are ready to snap at any moment. They might have more frequent angry outbursts at their demanding children who seek their attention and might even get physical if not able to control. The children especially those who are not having their own phones or means of communication with the outside world under such circumstances have no support and may be traumatized. In the normal world as it was pre Covid19, they had the opportunity to walk-in to the school counselors’ room and share their problems, today they will have to seek solutions from those who are purportedly part of the problem.
It’s very rare that families go without conflicts. Some are very loud and visible and the others lying below the surface. Parents might have kept their kids isolated from their personal conflicts but now they have no way of doing so. Children are quite intuitive to pick up any sign of stress in interpersonal relationship and might be in deep trauma. They might be silently suffering as they would be grappling with the very thought of losing any one of their parents to such conflicts. Some parents may inadvertently be putting pressure on the child to take sides which adds to severe emotional drain.
When confronted with uncertainties of life and the daily news of rising death toll due to Covid19 in your neighborhood, there exists a constant fear lurking in the minds of children about the ‘what if’. About what would happen to them if anything untoward happens to their parents; especially so if they are healthcare workers in the frontline fighting the pandemic. Coupled with that the news of some maniac going on shooting spree and killing dozens of innocents in the process. The fear – ranging from stocks running out to not being able to get anything to eat or plainly not knowing what would happen next can be difficult for the young minds to handle. Add to this when parents are unable to answer their question about how things would pan out in the future will surely leave a deep negative impact.
What can the parents do in such situations? They themselves are clueless about the future.
It’s very difficult to simulate the real classroom and playground at home or on the internet. With some looking at lockdown to continue up until July and the threat of infection spreading even after would definitely restrict or constrain their playtime. The problems are compounded for those who live in constricted apartments in big cities. There is no way board games and internet is going to satiate their thirst of the outdoors. Young kids have so much energy ready to explode that only outdoor playgrounds can help expend. Also, parents with best of intentions and effort may not be able to match up to such needs. Social contact is so much important and the stress occurring by the lack of it is palpable.
Children may be exposed to conversations of elders or parents which they may be ill-equipped to handle or comprehend or simply wouldn’t have been a party to in normal times. The pressure is as much on parents as to what should be the tone, tenor and content of their communication with each other lest the young minds may form their own conclusions. What to share and what not to is going to be a big challenge.
Stressed out parents who are not able to spend time or energy with kids may indulge in providing regular treats ranging from food to digital time. This may build habits which are unhealthy in the long run. We all know that during stressful times we tend to eat types of food which provide instant gratification though not good for health. One factor which contributes to childhood obesity is stress and its important that parents look at this dimension during lockdown. Lack of physical exercise and sitting for long hours does impact health adversely.
The new normal during and post lockdown will be the widespread use of internet for everything. From shopping to learning to working, you name it. We all know that the amount of time kids has already been spending using digital devices has been contributing adversely to the mental health. Keeping the digital world safe is so important without being do restrictive. Children may inadvertently get exposed to material which can have a deep impact on their psyche. With cyber predators taking this opportunity to increase their attacks on the vulnerable sections of the society which even the adults are falling prey to; it will not be easy on the child.
These are some of the areas which I thought all parents must seriously consider and look to address. The trauma on the child during and post lockdown can leave a scar for lifetime.
What other aspects do you think we need to consider?