Impact of lockdown on children
It has been more than a month since our schools opened. The children who were confined at homes for more than 18 months are now back to schools. These children were associated with uncertainty, anxiety, and volatility that was caused by disturbance in their education routines, physical activities and lack of opportunities for socialization.
They have also gone through a mental upheaval while they were in lockdown. The problem is that while we can express our concerns, these children do not have the vocabulary to put their concerns in words.
I am a parent and a teacher and while I reflect on both sides of the relationships.
Disruption in the routine
This study from home has subjected our children to absence of structured setting of the classes for a regular and long duration in routine and absence of any extra curriculum activities. Children need a fine balance between studies and play. With this balance becoming lopsided, the children have started showing some symptoms of facing difficulty in following instructions and doing their own work independently.
Distractions & learning gaps
The children missed out 18 months of personal touch with the teachers and peers. On top, they had to now learn via laptops, tablets, and phones, Many children were distracted in front of their electronic gadgets as a result learning became twice as difficult, This also increased the gaps in their learning. This increased gap now shows up when the children are back to school and may result in frustration and they may vent out this frustration in the form of aggression too.
Few children were in the protected shell with their parents at their home and were seeking help of their parents in every small decisions. Parents in the right spirit would often sit with their children helping them understand concepts that they may have missed while being distracted in front of their electronic devices. Most parents including us gave undivided attention to our kids however now I am observing that few children have become more attention seeking, clingy and more dependent on their parents. This has resulted in increased anxiety in few children and are experiencing negative psychological consequences as a result.
The only point of reference for children were parents since the other references and educational figures were no longer available. As a result children are facing difficulty in maintaining rapport with their peers. The social skills with fellow classmates have taken a dip. This shows up in lack of empathy. Lack of peer support or peer group interaction and lack of opportunities of learning and developing in groups has impacted their social skills adversely.
As a parent it is also been stressful to deal with work, family, children during the lockdown. Few parents have shown heightened state of aggression with their children due to the stress of the pandemic. This aggression may not be directed at children but even among family members. Since children learn from observation, many children have started showing aggression at school since this is how their minds have been modeled for almost 2 years.
What can we do?
As WHO states that “There is no health without mental health”. So what can we , teachers can do in our schools to value , promote and protect healthy minds for our children. We require an understanding of what our children have been experiencing during online studies and how best they can be supported to resume to normal life or the ‘new normal’, over the coming months and years.
Most of the children have likely experienced loneliness during lockdown and in particular, been affected by lack of physical contact with their peers, friends and the boredom and frustration associated with a loss of all extra curriculum activities. It is therefore important to facilitate support for children that allows them to talk through some of these experiences and validate their experience.
What can we do:
- Listen and validate: Children may express their feelings in various ways. Speaking, writing, drawing or in their behaviors. Just be available to them and listen and be ready to validate what they are saying.
- Be patient: It has taken almost 2 years for the children to develop few habits. Give them some time. Let them get accustomed to the new norms of school life.
- Remain calm: Just like parents, we as teachers are considered as a role models for our children. We should model how to deal the feelings like fear, sadness or anger in a positive way. Be patient and calm.
- Build connections: Try to talk to the children if you notice any behavioral change in them. Be someone whom the children feel comfortable in confiding what is going through their mind.
- Model respect for others: Emphasize respect for others. We need to model how we treat others. In case of conflicts amongst children, empathize with the aggressors as well since our behavior will model what other observing children may learn.
- Build Trust: Try to identify the thoughts that infuriate their aggression and discuss with them. Do not reprimand them for aggression, instead go in with a perspective of empathy rather than trying to correct the wrong.
- Be friendly: Be a friend to them and share your feelings so that they share their own. Tell them it is ok to experience what they are experiencing. Talk about your own stories when you felt vulnerable. Bring them at ease with you so that they are able to find comfort in you.
This is one moment when our children need teachers to help them out more than even before. There are many schools that are yet to open so this is a nudge to few teachers who are yet to go to schools. At the end, I would hope the children in school are open to learning and are able to connect with others. It is our responsibility to help them know their strengths and are able to develop a sense of worth. Help them to empathize with others. Help them to reflect while having fun. We are all here to build lifelong learning or rather lifeworthy learner.
Share your stories as a parent or a teacher. What did you observe, what did you experience, how did you help your children in the comments.