It’s a difficult time for all of us. With the government prescribing social isolation in the view of Coronavirus endemic, human beings of all age groups are suffering from a variety of psychological problems.
In isolation, while adults have all their attention on news channels and Whatsapp forwards all day long, children, on the other hand, are confused over their sudden confinement. They are unable to fully comprehend as to why everyone is in their homes, and why aren’t they allowed to meet their friends, not go to school?
Social isolation doesn’t necessarily mean loneliness.
Perlman and Peplau’s (1981) defined loneliness as a negative feeling – a lonely person is experiencing a discrepancy between desired and actual social contact. Therefore, being away from friends and restriction of any sort has led to feelings of loneliness in children which triggers many symptoms of depression like- lack of appetite, hypersomnia or hyposomnia, hopelessness, helplessness to name a few.
Coupled with recurring episodes of tension and uncertainty of the future, the current situation is inducing anxiety and stress both in adults and children.
Furthermore, quarantined life has led to a lack of access to care and physical inactivity which in turn is aggravating the conditions. Lack of order in such a lifeless lifestyle also alters our sleep cycle. Sleep disruption contributes to feelings of low mood which exhausts our coping abilities and compromises with our decision making abilities and immune system.
Being in the same environment for several days, surrounded by the same faces can result in frustration. Additionally, this leads to feeling claustrophobic, experience panic attacks and may cause paranoia and hallucinations.
In such conditions, it is of utmost importance that children are catered to first. Once they are explained and made aware of the present scenario, help them enjoy this solitude rather than ‘cope’ with it. This state is not a punishment but a mere precaution against the invisible enemy. This time can be presented to them as a precious opportunity to do all the activities that needed to be discontinued due to academic pressure, busy social life and so on. They can be encouraged to develop life skills, new hobbies, introspect and spend some quality time with family. Make them aware, that their friends are also going through a similar lifestyle right now. Therefore, it is more important that elders of the behave responsibly; following government restrictions and remaining calm in front of children or else soon you’ll find them in the same state as their parents’ emotional state.
While we are helping our children in taking care of physical hygiene all the more now, it is also necessary that we help them maintain their mental hygiene and clean these negative thoughts which keep clouding their minds.
It’s a physical lockdown. A little effort is all that is required to stop us from believing that it’s a mental lockdown too. Encourage your children to freely think and talk. This emergency will pass.
(Contributed by Debut, a Kolkata-based mental health organisation)