By Tara Singh Vachani
A few days ago, my friend’s family was sharing what they miss most during the Covid-19 lockdown. While “shopping”, “dining out” were some guilty utterances, her five-year-old daughter shrugged and said “school”. That’s when it occurred to me that while this pandemic and its repercussions are unprecedented for all of us, for children, this could be a life-altering event. To curb those bouts of energy and the urge to go out and play with friends, whether at school or in the neighbourhood would mean practising a great deal of self-control and resilience. The question then arises – is this good for our children?
The answer is not a simple yes or no. From my observation and conversations with those around me, it is no secret that keeping children at home is an uphill task. Added to that is the challenge of explaining to the younger ones what social distancing or a pandemic means. But as parents, it becomes our duty to help them overcome this phase without any severe damage to their emotional or social development. To do that, we must first understand what this pandemic could mean for our children and their well-being.
Firstly, during a vulnerable time such as now, it becomes imperative that children understand the importance of human values like compassion, empathy, patience, optimism, among others. These quintessential virtues, not always found in textbooks, can help them comprehend why a concept like social distancing is necessary and garner sympathy for those who are unwaveringly working to tackle the pandemic such as healthcare professionals. This can be made possible through limited exposure to fact-based and neutral news as well as simplified videos, especially ones highlighting good deeds.
Secondly, this is also a suitable opportunity to exemplify to children that tools, beyond academics, are vital to lead a fulfilling life. Efforts must be made to educate both the heart and the mind, and no better place or time to implement that than at home and now. Children at home can be encouraged to participate in easy household activities or learn a new skill to understand values like teamwork, involvement, and collaboration. Assigning them tasks can also impart a sense of independence, responsibility, and accomplishment.
During these times, it is also essential that social distancing does not translate into social isolation for children. They must be able to connect with their friends and close ones virtually in order to feel bonhomie and warm-heartedness as well as assuage any underlying anxiety. These small actions can ensure that children’s emotional and social development doesn’t run off the rails.
Educators realise this well. For instance, the Delhi government has initiated online “happiness classes” for all. The inaugural class on April 18 was an online mindfulness session by a teacher. Sessions also comprise stories on intra-family relations, and suggestions on what individuals can do to create and maintain harmonious relationships at home.
While the current times are not easy for anyone, it can be especially harsh for young minds brimming with energy, enthusiasm and ideas. It is vital to ensure that this vigour is channelled appropriately while also learning something new, exciting and meaningful. Through effective tools that focus on holistic growth and nurturing human values, we can ensure that children are able to emerge out of this crisis feeling emotionally stronger, mentally healthier and better equipped to manage the idiosyncrasies of the real world.
(The writer is the Managing Trustee of Max India Foundation.)
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