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Here is an experience shared by a Gurugram parent. She took her three little children out for a treat after months of having stayed indoors. The children were excited (and ecstatic) to finally step out of their house. But their excitement was short lived. While her nine year old son did enjoy looking out of the window of his car, he didn’t show much interest in getting out of the car for his treat. The younger siblings aged five and six started having a meltdown inside the car and wanted to go back home!

What could have been the reason? Children who were always insisting their parents take them to the park, to the shops or for play-dates throughout the lockdown, suddenly turned pugnacious.

While this example is an extreme one, it does indicate that the lockdown may have affected children in ways we still may not fully understand, or appreciate. In this article, we will talk about “what can we expect from our children when they step into the outer world,” and “how to deal with it”.

Similarly, schools need to be mindful of the impact. Educationworld (2020-21) rated Vega Schools as one of the Best Schools of Gurgaon, because of its child-centric holistic pedagogical approach, where the social emotional needs of the child are considered to be as important as academics. 

The last ten months of lockdown followed by strict measures to stay indoors and to travel only when required, has been very challenging for both parents and children. The sudden change in the routine forced parents to balance work, play, online classes along with dealing with anxieties and pandemic related stresses.

So returning to normal life will have its own sets of challenges and adjustment issues for both the children and for the parents. While some children rush boldly ahead, others shrink back and watch from the sidelines. Some children may refuse to accept changes, while some may require attention and counseling.

What behavioral changes can we expect during the Post COVID-19 transition?

  • Over excitement or under excitement
  • Finding new things  outside their comfort zone a bit daunting
  • Scared to step out for fear of contracting the virus
  • A feeling of uncertainty, confusion
  • Physical changes like feeling sleepy in the car, headaches, stomach aches, arising from stress
  • Meltdowns 
  • Frustration, because the child wants to go out but is afraid

What can be some of the reasons for changes in behaviour?

  • After months of confinement, stepping out is a big deal for some young children. 
  • Staying indoors coupled with minimum playtime and social life may have reinforced negative emotions
  • Lack of a daily routine that used to help in regulating stress 
  • Children who were exposed to excessive Covid-19 related news and discussions; hence the fear may be deeply rooted
  • Some elders were not able to handle stress as well. Children of anxious parents have more emotional difficulties handling the change
  • Some children may have witnessed sickness, deaths due to the virus

 How can we help children heal?

  • Planning ahead: In the above-mentioned story, the family realized that they should have talked through (and visualised) the trip with their children well in advance. 
  • Open communication: Parents should talk to their children openly about how and where they would like to go out. And plan the trips with the children. 
  • Ownership: Let children decide what kind of outing they want and select the destination, timing, etc. 
  • Get into the routine: This is important because no matter how hard we have tried; our routine has been turned upside down due to the lockdown. Time has come to once again get back to the early to bed and early to rise routine, and to a time tabled day. 
  • Coping with stress: Educationworld ranked us as one of the top 5 schools in Gurgaon. We strongly believe in the mental wellbeing of the child, and that follows relationships, finally followed by relevant and real world learning. Our team of counselors is always available to help children and parents. Visit our blog on mental health; dated 30th June dated 31st August.
  • Reinforcing safety measures: Young children live in their magical world and consider the virus as a “bad monster”. When their parents tell them that it’s time we can go out, they may assume that the monster has been defeated!! Hence we need to ensure that no matter what, we have to follow all the safety measures and protocols for the safety of all. The idea is to share the facts  about the current situation, the vaccine, and life even after vaccination.  
  • Slow and steady: Our children took time to adjust to the new normal. Similarly, they will take time to go back to the “old normal”. They are so used to the comfort of their home and to their parents being around them 24*7 that they may find it a little difficult to revert. We need to give them the freedom to choose when they want to go out. And when they do, we can break it down into progressive steps – such a visit to a nearby park, followed by a road trip, then a weekend getaway or a small gathering of friends and family. And finally, they will need to be prepared to go back to school. 
  • Offer encouragement by sharing real-life experiences: Some parents may have gone back to work or go out for physical activities. They can share their own experiences about the outside situation and make their children more comfortable.
  • Don’t rush academics: Let’s not inundate our children with school work/projects/extra classes just because the school is about to reopen or that robotics classes may be operational again. The focus should always be on mental wellbeing first. 
  • Being there for them as much as you can: Children are used to having their parents around every little thing. Let’s not withdraw suddenly even if we have to rejoin work.
  • Talking about the positives: This is very important especially for smaller children, so that they appreciate all the things they had enjoyed during this pandemic. Let the lockdown situation be a learning experience so they may cherish this time forever. This way they can move on with full closure.
  • Focus on a healthy lifestyle: We need to constantly tell our children that being physically fit and healthy will help us overcome the virus in the long run. Let us focus on eating a balanced diet, doing physical activity, and breathing fresh air. If our children see us doing these things, they will do them too. 

New experiences that are outside our child’s comfort zone will naturally feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable. 

Top schools in the country and the best schools in Gurugram will believe that the best things in life come from pushing children beyond their comfort zones. It helps to be resilient, determined, and to grow in all aspects of life. Nothing can be more important.