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With the decline in Covid-19 cases, schools have reopened in many states. At the same time, paediatricians are observing a spike in the number of children reporting behavioural problems post COVID-19 lockdown. They have raised concern that these unwanted behavioural changes can lead to poor academic performances and affect their quality of life.
Doctors have suggested some coping strategies that parents can try to help children to calm down. Keep reading
Several countries imposed a nationwide lockdown, including restriction in movements, to curb Covid infection. In India, the state governments cancel events and gatherings, closed shops and recreational facilities, educational institutions such as schools and colleges were shut, and e-learning was introduced. In addition, social distancing was enforced, which massively impacted social interactions and public life. All these affected the psychological well-being of children. Now, after schools reopened, a majority of children are facing behavioural issues, said doctors at Motherhood Hospital.
While lockdown-related stress has affected many children of all age groups, children from 5 to 15 years who used to go to school are the ones who are badly affected, said Dr Tushar Parikh, Chief Neonatologist and Paediatrician, Motherhood Hospital, Pune.
He elaborated, "Unable to go to school or participate in activities outside the home, children have been having behavioural problems. Children are overwhelmed, encountering problems like conduct disorder (CD) or oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)wherein they refuse to obey rules, lack empathy towards others, and lie frequently. Anxiety and Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) were seen in children during pandemics. They repeatedly sanitize their hands or other stationeries, fear when someone comes closer or walks without a mask. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is seen as the child is impulsive, hyperactive inattentive, and will crave attention."
According to Dr Parikh, the grief, anxiety, and depression experienced by children during the pandemic have also entered into classrooms and hallways, resulting in crying, disruptive behaviour in many younger kids, increased violence, and bullying among adolescents.
He said, "Children have become anxious, stressed, frustrated, irritated, depressed, fussy, aggressive, sad, nervous, angry, hopeless, have mood swings, and have poor self-esteem. Their stress can show up as disruptive behaviour, noncompliance, and tantrums. The death of their loved ones due to Covid shocked them and they stopped interacting and felt lonely. They avoid participating in any family activities, hit, bite nails, argue, blame, shout at their parents, and back answer them. Some children are unable to sleep, feel nauseated, puckish, constipated, complain of stomach pain, and have a poor appetite. They will be anxious if separated from the family, are clingy, do not want to socialize, and fear going to school or anywhere out of the house."
Dr Pradeep Alate, Paediatrician, Apollo spectra Pune, added that as schools reopened, children are having a slowdown in all areas of cognitive, emotional, physical, and social development.
He stated, "The Covid-19 lockdown impacted the psychological well-being of children. Parents have reported stress and behavioural problems in children. Since children were not being able to play with friends, meet them or go to gardens and parks and that emerged as a challenge during these unprecedented times. There were behavioural problems in children like insecurity, lack of control, irritation, frustration, being hyperactive, violent, aggressive, lonely, traumatized."
The experts suggested that parents can help children to calm down by using coping strategies like spending some quality time, listening to calming music, playing, and doing activities that they like.
Dr Pradeep recommended, "Try to offer your child the perception of a safe environment and see that they do not fret or panic. Parents should spend more time with their children, which might lead to valuable parent-child interactions. Help children to reconnect with their friends via video calls. Avoid exposure of your child to unnecessary information that can trigger anxious behaviour. Also, suggest minimizing screen time and focusing on outdoor games and family interactions."
Dr Parikh suggested that parents can encourage children to practise mindfulness, do yoga, stretch, and take a nap as well as help them focus on the present moment, relax and connect with family.
The Paediatrician continued, "Parents need to check in with the child often and watch and observe the signs if they are struggling. Children can be given behavioural therapy, medications to ease anxiety, family therapy can help in improving communication and problem-solving skills, cognitive behavioural therapy help the child to control thoughts and behaviour. Social training helps with social skills, such as how to have a conversation or play cooperatively with others. Anger management can help in recognizing the signs of frustration, defuse anger and aggressive behaviour,"
"Teachers in the schools should pay attention towards these children and help them sail through, give them much-needed live and warmth, create a safe atmosphere for the children and they will surely be able to overcome behavioural challenges," Dr Parikh added.
According to Dr Parikh, the best therapy for children is to get back to a pre-covid routine as early as possible.
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