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The Next Generation: at the Mercy of Our Hands

Pratheek S

14th September 2020

According to a survey by Reliefweb, one in four children deal with anxiety during the lockdown. (Source: Mint)

As staggering as it sounds, it was only four months ago that a third of the global population was in lockdown, according to WHO. It has been a surreal time to live in for all of us, and we are often left to wonder if the pandemic would ever end, and remind ourselves of the time we lived in before the widespread.

The plight of the children who virtually have no memory of the time that existed before the outbreak of COVID-19 can only be imagined. Restrictions of movement, salary cuts, and isolation—to name a few—have been constant nemeses for people during this time. However, it is the children and adolescents who are facing the brunt of it, since their growth and nurturing have never looked more vulnerable.

Dr M. Vijayalakshmi—a paediatrician in Kochi—claims that the prolonged state of lockdown could alter the chemistry between the kids and parents. “I gave up trying to monitor it, as I was unable to control it,” confessed a mother of two teenage daughters on failing to shield her children from their addiction to gadgets. “Most parents are now letting their kids do whatever they want. There is this real feeling of helplessness”.

According to a study by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, loneliness due to lockdown could lead to high proportions of depression and anxiety in children and adolescents.

Understandably, we are conditioned to certain stimuli and a well-defined lifestylethe lockdown is not something we are suitably wired for. Psychotherapist Farishta Dastur Mukerji of Kolkata claims that since we are not ready for these circumstances, our bodies are finding ways to cope with them. “People are experiencing sleep disturbances because of an increase in anxiety and frustration, as no one knows how long this situation will last,” she elaborated.

“There is such an information overload. Kids are not processing most of it,” observed Ms Mukerji. With the switch to online classes, not only is there a big ask for the children to keep their focus via screens continually; the transition from the real classroom environment to a virtual one is not a plain sail, either. While adults have a hard time coping with the new normal, one is left to wonder about the sorry state the children live in. Where do they express themselves? How do they channelise their enthusiasm? Where is the room for them to be carefree?

The outlet for children to express themselves is crucial to their growth and nurturing. In addition, not only are their playtimes completely cut down, but they have no classmates to turn to and to have chit-chats, they do not have their favourite activities such as dance classes, karate club, music club, among others to keep themselves involved and active. Their outlets are all virtually shut down, and it is a shame that electronic gadgets have replaced all the above activities to keep themselves busy and occupied.

Adolescence, on the other hand, is the time when we seek independence and have a need to establish our own identities. Unfortunately, the lockdown has impeded such opportunities.

Sonali Gupta shared an instance of her experience as a primary therapist, about a 16-year old girl who expressed her sadness due to her plans going unfulfilled. The 16-year old feels that the lockdown has been like a prison. Her plans to make her birthday ‘special’ were squashed. While she grieves for the loss of family vacation which was planned much in advance, she wonders if she is 'privileged' for complaining too much while there are people dying all around the world, and there are people grieving for their losses. She is also worried that she may not see the boy she was falling in love with, anytime soon, and does not know how to deal with it.

While it is heart-wrenching to hear such circumstances of the children and adolescents, it is more vital than ever that we act upon it. While the adults have a fair share of understanding of what is currently going on, it is important that they are told the age-appropriate truths. It is important they are explained of the impacts of the pandemic, and what the foreseeable future holds for them. That way they understand the status of schools reopening, their birthdays, their meeting friends, or their playtime in the park or pool.

They deserve our time, attention, and involvement. A child’s growth is just as important as their work. Board games can come in handy during this time; any indoor game, for that matter, could be the key to keep their playfulness alive. Celebrate the important days, and make their special days actually ‘special’.

It is important that we are reminded of the hazards electronic gadgets carry with them. Looking back on the previous generations when children had no computers or cell phones to keep the children occupied, it was the storybooks, puzzles, painting, toys etc that they turned to. Not only do these things keep them away from the harmful effects of electronic gadgets, but brainstorming activities are also important for their healthy mental growth.

While these are not applicable or pragmatic at all times, it is important on our part to understand that it is us who need to create our own outlets for the children. They deserve healthy growth. While the future of the next generation looks vulnerable, while it is at the mercy of our hands, now is the time we act upon.

(Sources: WHO, The Week, Mumbai Mirror)

Edited by Nayana Dhanya

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