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Covid-19 information explosion spawning behavioural changes & anxiety among children 

May 5, 2021
– Reshma Ravishanker

Behavioural pattern changes and heightened anxiety is being noticed among children who are bogged down by an overwhelming amount of information regarding the Covid-19 pandemic that they are unable to comprehend while being restricted indoors and have little outlet for emotions, experts say.

When 14-year-old Karthik (name changed) began bedwetting two weeks ago, it drew angst, anger and disgust from his family. Little did they know that the child had been suffering from acute anxiety induced by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Otherwise showing no concerns, the healthy child told his parents that he had begun bedwetting as a result of some nightmares that he had recently.

Karthik’s case is just one such. Nagasimha G Rao, a child rights activist at Child Rights Trust said that in Karthik’s case, parents were unable to elicit information from the child. “When I sat him down, he said his fear began following a discussion with one of his classmates. His classmate’s father had Covid-19 with severe symptoms and went on to share his experience with Karthik. The child developed anxiety on hearing the same.”

Rao said that his parents took it as a stigma that a child in high school was bedwetting and they had to be counselled on how the child should be dealt with. “When they notice a behaviour change, parents must try to talk to them and take them into confidence rather than force them to change. Seek help from counsellors online and ensure that the child is given personal space to express what they feel to the counsellor alone. Respect their privacy,” he urged.

NGOs have been seeing similar cases of mounting fear among children. Parents of another child from Devanahalli off Bengaluru said that their son sought comfort by sitting under the table all day long as he thought he would be saved from the Covid-19 virus by doing so. In yet another case, two girls (8 and 12) from Chitradurga who previously danced satirically about Covid-19 have now been hiding under quilts out of fear and refuse to step out.

The psychological impact that the second wave of Covid-19 has had on children cannot be dismissed, say, professionals. Creating a routine and spending more time with children could be a way out, say experts.

Dr Satish Ramaiah, psychiatrist, People Tree Hospitals said that he has been seeing children with anxiety, behaviour issues and irritability. “Sometimes, it stems from the pandemic. Else, it is induced by being at home, an erratic lifestyle, and a lack of social interaction. Parents should step back, be realistic, show empathy. They should speak in an appreciative way rather than be judgemental and let them express what they fear. Create a routine in the absence of schools or better productivity,” he urged.

Dr Gangadhar B N, president, ethics and medical registration board, National Medical Commission and former director of Nimhans urged media to screen the information that is disseminated. “When colour and graphic details are shown, a child can associate Covid with death always. Hearing someone in the family testing positive, that is the first thought that occurs,” he said adding, “Parents must in times like these spend more time with children, involve them in physical activity inside the house or balconies, get them to play games or outdoor activities even if it is just within the compound of the house.”

Also read:

Prolonged home confinement leads to behavioural problems

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