As normal activities ceased, Covid had an impact on children’s mental health: AIIMS Professor: The Tribune India


New Delhi, August 22

The Covid pandemic has impacted children’s mental health, and parents or other loved ones need to monitor their behavior and encourage them to communicate their concerns, says a top psychiatrist.

In an interview with IANS, Dr. Rajesh Sagar, professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and a member of the Central Mental Health Authority, created a safe and fun environment for them to engage in various activities.

Below are excerpts from the interview.

Q: How has the pandemic affected children’s mental health?

A: Children are sensitive – both physically and mentally. Any form of stress, worry, or trauma can hit them deeply and lead to long-lasting effects. The pandemic has changed their normal activities – their schools are closed, teaching has shifted to the internet, and their interactions with their peers are restricted and restricted. Also, there are some who have lost one or both parents or relatives or carers.

All of these factors can affect children’s psychological well-being and deprive them of the emotionally fulfilling environment that is important for their normal growth and development.

Q: What is the biggest challenge for you when dealing with children in need?

A: Unlike adults, children react differently in stressful situations. Some children become clingy, some withdraw, some become aggressive, some become depressed. Hence, it is difficult to understand the mental state of children. What we do know is the fact that the environment affects children’s emotions or moods. Sometimes children internalize a situation. Panic, illness or the death of loved ones can negatively affect them and sometimes they are unable to express their fears, fears or worries.

Therefore, it is important for adults to keep an eye on children’s behavior. It is also important during the current crisis that adults encourage children to communicate their views and perspectives on various related issues. In order for children to be able to express themselves clearly, they must be provided with a conducive environment. If they cannot speak, they can be encouraged to express themselves through drawing, painting, and other mediums.

The effects of the pandemic on children cannot be addressed with direct questions; Caregivers need to be gentle when communicating with children as they may not know what is happening to them internally. Hence, it is important to use creative ways to understand them but communicate directly when discussing difficult topics such as infection, death, etc.

Q: The first five to six years of a child’s life are considered the founding years, during which a child needs various stimuli for normal growth and development. How is the pandemic affecting younger children and how do you think the effects can be minimized?

A: The first five years are indeed very crucial in a child’s life and we need to provide multimodal incentives for the child. The lack of a positive environment, lack of stimulation, or social interactions can negatively affect them.

While we cannot put children at risk of contagion, we need to create a fun environment in which children can take part in a variety of activities. Online education should also focus on activity-based learning. I firmly believe that we need to develop methods that are also fun and safe so that we can minimize the impact of the pandemic on children.

Q: Older children also face uncertainty on the academic front. What would you advise them to do?

A: It is normal for you to feel insecure. The pandemic has thwarted their education and career plans.

This is where the role of parents, carers or teachers becomes very important. You need to show the children that there is not much we can do to change the situation and they are not alone in this as many other children around the world face a similar dilemma. It is also important that the parents accept the reality and pass it on to the children and support them throughout the process. Education authorities are flexible about taking exams and I think we’ll get to a point where this virus won’t affect their educational and career choices as negatively.

Q: The pandemic has put a special focus on parenting. How would you advise parents?

A: With the blurring of the line between work and personal life, many parents find it difficult to take on the added responsibility of looking after their children’s academic needs. Children of all ages have different needs – they need time, attention, commitment, resources, and a happy environment. A stressful home environment can be a trigger for mental illness, but a safe environment can protect you from existing mental health problems.

In order for parents to get their children involved, they need to have a positive attitude themselves. Parents need to find ways to calm down. They need to streamline their daily activities so that they can make time for the children.

If you are not up to the stress, you should seek support from family, friends or specialists.



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