While the COVID-induced lockdowns have been hard on adults, they have been tougher still on kids. Starting from little children, whose minds are unable to even grasp what a pandemic is, to teenagers, whose academics have come to a grinding halt -- all have been affected negatively.
Several parents have reported aggression, loss of appetite, mobile/TV addiction and other behaviourial issues with children since last year. Not to mention their own frazzled state of mind with careers going haywire and household chores to do.
Schools, which have been conducting only online classes since COVID broke, have also been struggling to reinvent themselves and keep in touch with students.
Exactly what is happening to our next generation and how are we trying to help them? Awaz- the Voice spoke to a few parents, principals and child psychologists to find out.
Reena Tongad, mother of a seven-year-old girl, reflected deep concern. “My girl is really bright and loved going to school. However, since her school closed, her routine is completely disturbed. She sleeps till late, misses breakfast, watches Doraemon (cartoon) all day long, and starts screaming if we ask her to shut off the TV. Am worried she’ll ruin her eyes.”
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Gulrukh Zaheen, mother of a boy in XIth standard in a prominent school in Gurgaon, presented another range of issues. “My son is an athlete. He is a district-level skating champion and loves to exercise. Since the lockdown, he has been asking us for gym equipment; but where do we get that right now? He’s been quite irritable and doesn’t speak to us easily.”
Senior psychologist at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi, Neelam Mishra, said she has been witnessing more cases of children with ‘psychopathological’ problems lately.
“Few days back, we counseled a little girl who had become very demanding and destructive. She wanted new make-up sets, Barbie dolls and stuffed toys daily. Her parents said she had started lying besides constant yelling. Another patient, a young boy, had confined himself to a room while mobile gaming 24x7. On being scolded, he slapped his mother once or twice,” she said.
She advised that parents must not leave their children alone for long hours even inside homes, “lest they should create an alternate world for themselves, full of either suspicious Facebook friends or gaming videos.”
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How are our schools coping with the new challenges presented by COVID-19 and reaching out to students and their parents?
Dr. Sanjay Yadav, Principal, Ahlcon International School, East Delhi listed out various activities that they have been conducting online. “Our physical education department has been holding online Yoga sessions, not just for students, but parents and teachers too. And since there are fixed morning timings, it works better than all those YouTube Yoga videos.”
“We have been encouraging kids to do gardening, waste management, energy audits, read at least 5-10 pages of a book every day, write and share blogs or poems and even make music videos with family members. Our teachers help with the editing. I have told my teachers, ‘Keep academics aside for a while, let us focus on the children’s wellbeing’,” he said.
Neetu Kapoor, Principal at Army Public School, Delhi Cantt, said first of all, we must give credit to our children for the resilience they have shown in these extraordinary times.
“What is happening right now is unprecedented. We have never had a batch promoted or passed out without attending a full year in school. Imagine those young boys and girls who waited for their last annual day, sports day or farewell, but didn’t get it. Besides, there is the ambiguity of the future. We don’t even know what’s happening to the XIIth Boards.”
“In such a situation, we are trying to do our best with the given resources. We are holding online sessions in table manners, folding clothes and bathroom etiquettes for the junior kids. For the middle school lot, there are self-awareness classes, and for the seniors, online lectures in conflict management and leadership skills. We are trying to be their friends at the moment,” she said.