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Help your child cope with social isolation and loneliness

By Mansi Jain,

It is vital to compensate for the missing peer engagement at home to keep children psychologically healthy.

Forced isolation can have a significant impact on children's social development.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had debilitating effects on our physical and emotional health. While front line workers like doctors, nurses, other healthcare professionals and those involved in essential services like food, transport and sanitation are risking their lives to help us survive, the rest of us are locked up at home in order to maintain social distancing and restrict the spread of the novel coronavirus. Social distancing measures have led to loneliness and other psychological challenges like anxiety, stress and depression in adults and kids. However, children have been the worst sufferers of emotional health issues during the COVID-19 lockdown, thanks to more than a year of estrangement from a highly engaging community of peers and mentors. As a parent, it is important for you to help your kids battle these psychological challenges while taking care of your own mental health and well-being. Here are ways to ensure that children are able to breeze through these trying times.  

Help kids connect with friends 
One effective way to help your children battle with isolation is to keep them connected with their friends and peers. Given the social distancing norms, the safest way for your kid to spend time and play with their friends without going outside the house is through video chats and phone calls. For young ones, encouraging a weekly video call with a friend or a family member would be beneficial, while teenagers might prefer texting or online gaming with friends. 

Help your child feel secure 
The best way to make kids feel secure is to ensure that they are not alone and help them realise that you are in this together with them. Find ways to spend quality family time in order to enhance   bonding. Get involved and participate in their hobbies like cooking or painting and try playing board games with your children. Making new family traditions, like weekly movie nights at home, can help strengthen your bond and make kids feel comfortable enough to share their apprehensions and insecurities with you. 

Maintaining a routine 
The COVID-19 lockdown has made our routines go haywire. But lack of schedule makes children foster uncertainty. More than a year of not going to school, attending online classes from home, not playing with friends, are a deviation from their usual routine. On top of making your kids feel lonely, this change has unsettled them, throwing them off their rhythm. So, you need to create a schedule for them which is similar to the pre-lockdown era. 

Here is an example. You can tweak it according to your preference. 

  • Encourage your child to wake up by 7:00 am. Go for a morning walk if it can be safely accommodated. Wash up after coming back and have a healthy breakfast by 8:45 am.  
  • If your child isn’t currently attending online classes, ask her to help with household chores. 
  • At 11:00 pm, advise your kid to read through his course materials and focus on studying.
  • Setting proper routine for meal times is important. So make sure they are at the lunch table by 1:00 pm.  
  • Spending the afternoon in creative pursuits or a hobby is good option. 
  •  Offer your kids an evening snack or fruits around 3 to 4 pm.  
  • Encourage them to spend the next few hours with either friends or close family members through phone or video calls.  
  • Set the family dinner time between 9 PM to 10 PM. Avoid gadgets during dinner time.
  • Make sure kids sleep early, latest by 11:00 PM. 

Include a lot of exercise and physical play in the daily routine of your child along with maintaining healthy eating and sleeping habits. Introducing them to a few hobbies will also be a good idea.  

Encourage kids to help with chores 
Children tend to lose interest in everything very fast.  One of the major challenges that parents face with them is dealing with their boredom. This problem has only aggravated during the dull, lonely days of isolation. One of the best ways to tackle it is to engage kids in daily chores. Encouraging them to wash their dishes after every meal, keep their room clean, help with folding laundry or dicing vegetables while cooking are good places to start with. Asking simple favors will make them feel depended on and inculcate a sense of responsibility.  

Get professional help 
While these coping mechanisms can be helpful, they may not work in some cases. If you notice signs of depression, anxiety and stress persisting in your youngster, consider taking professional help. Choose your child’s psychologist judiciously. This is because wrong guidance may lead to disaster as a kid’s mind is tender and easily impressionable. Talk to fellow parents facing similar challenges and ask for their recommendations in finding the right mind coach for your child.  

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