Covid scare now becomes children’s nightmares - - Telling the truth- always!

Covid scare now becomes children’s nightmares

MUMBAI: A few days after school closed, the nightmares began. Eight year-old Jahnavi (name changed) would arrive at her parents’ bedroom at 3am, saying she was scared. “This went on for three days. Then she finally said she had been getting a stomach ache in the evenings and was scared she had contracted the coronavirus,” said her mother, who works in an advertising agency.
Last week, 12-year-old Advay (name changed) had a panic attack. “He suddenly said he couldn’t breathe. After he calmed down, he told us he was scared that we (his parents) would be killed by the coronavirus,” said his mother, who teaches in an international school.
With the pandemic shutting down schools and offices and news about its spread and impact being discussed non-stop in homes, the anxiety is leaving its mark on children. As parents discuss the death toll, panic about how to keep the disease at bay and whether their groceries are running out, children cannot escape its impact.
Long before schools closed down, Covid-19 was already on everyone’s radar. “I was scared to go to school. If someone sneezed on me, I thought I was going to get it,” said nine-year old Jahaan (name changed). He refused to go down to the building garden, much before the lockdown was declared.
The biggest change after the lockdown is social isolation: no school, hanging out with friends or playing downstairs. “Suddenly the whole normality has changed. Children don’t go to school and their parents, who may have been working, are at home all the time,” said Dr Alka Subramanyam, associate professor of psychiatry at BYL Nair Hospital.
Children are bound to be affected by the anxiety displayed by parents, psychiatrists say. “I have been inundated by calls from friends and clients who either think they have it or are not doing enough to prevent it. Not sleeping, having paranoid thoughts and so on,” said Kersi Chavda, consultant psychiatrist and former president of the Bombay Psychiatric Society.
It’s best to tell children simple facts, said Chavda. “We can tell them these germs have come to our city from other countries and we have stay home for some time to be safe. End on a positive note, saying it will certainly get better,” added Chavda.
“It’s important to limit corona-time so the child is not exposed to this all day,” said Subramanyam. “Among the big triggers for children are visual images. Even during 9/11, children who watched images on television were more prone to stress,” she added.
“A routine is vital to normalise things during an abnormal period. Also, we should not focus so much on schoolwork during this time. Instead, parents should reassure children and spend quality time with them. The emphasis should be on getting through this together as a family,” advised Subramanyam.

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