How to help school children bust stress amid Covid-19 pandemic

School closures are preventing children from access to learning and limiting their interaction with peers. Children are feeling confused and at loss with the current situation, leading to frustration and anxiety. Here are some tips to help manage stress in children.,

In defining stress, there are at least two ways, each of which contribute something to current understanding of the concept.

A stimulus - based definition

Stress results from pressure. The greater the pressure the more likely that the recipient, whether a person or a load-bearing beam, will succumb. When the (external) stimulus becomes too great (internal) collapse becomes inevitable. This definition focuses on the external sources of stress and encapsulates well into cumulative nature. Adding one more to the weight on the beam may yet be enough to cause it to break.

A response-based definition

It focuses on stress as a response to noxious or aversive stimuli. This is the aspect of stress emphasized by Selye(1956), who measured stress in terms of physiological responses, such as those represented by sympathetic adrenal - medullary activity or by pituitary - adrenal - cortical activity. Selye observed what he called General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) during which the physiological response to stress progresses though three stages. First, the body is alerted and responds with an alarm reaction. Next, autonomic activity is triggered as the body prepare to deal with the stress. This is the stage of resistance. Finally, if the stress continues beyond the capacity of the body to respond, the system is damaged and may collapse. This is the stage of exhaustion.

COVID-19 has caused significant distress around the world. Apart from physical symptoms in infected cases, it has caused serious damage to public mental health especially to the children and old aged persons. Like many other countries India implemented a nationwide lockdown to contain and curb the transmission of the virus. Still new cases are arising in all the states. In this situation, children have constrained access to socialization, play, and even physical contact, critical for their psychosocial wellbeing and development.

School closures are preventing children from access to learning and limiting their interaction with peers. Children are feeling confused and at loss with the current situation, leading to frustration and anxiety, which will only increase with the overexposure to mass and social media, especially among adolescents.

Although we all experience stress differently, some common symptoms include: irritability, difficulty in sleeping, teeth grinding, headaches, stomach pain, weight gain or weight loss, difficulty in concentration, excessive sleeping, obsessive or compulsive behaviours.

Following strategies can be taken up in order to keep our children emotionally, mentally and physically healthy during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation.

Maintain a good relationship

We have to develop a good relationship with our children during this pandemic. It can be in many ways like developing plans for them to connect with their friends or extended family in safe way. Whether it's by phone, text or video chat.

Maintain a regular schedule

During this hard time we need to frame a regular schedule for our children to reassure and promote physical and mental health of the children to the extent possible. Children need our support, so need to encourage them to continue learning, playing, eating and sleeping on the same schedule.

Give assignments

Keeping children's minds focused on specific assignment eliminates a lot of their stress. We can structure playtime, assign chores or ask them to create something anything. Their minds can become hyper focused to stimuli around then - good or bad. We can ask them to draw beautiful pictures or sceneries, to make a clean house. We have to insist their minds to focus on a goal and not on things out of their control.

Keep children away from mass media

Nowadays children spend most of their time in watching television and mobile phone. Limit their amount of screen time focused on COVID-19. We need to encourage them in other activities instead. Too much information can lead to unnecessary anxiety. We have to educate our children to know that not everything they hear on TV or the internet is accurate. This will not only reduce their anxiety but ours as well.

Observations

When tensions are high, sometimes we try to place blame or focus our energies on others. A virus can infect anyone, so we should not make assumptions about who might have COVID-19. We must be aware of any comments that other adults are making around our children, we have to explain what those comments mean if they are different from the values we teach.

Our Children are our future. In order to protect our future, we need to keep them happier, healthier, and more productive. The ultimate goal is a balanced life, with time for work, relationships, relaxation, and fun - and the resilience to hold up under pressure and meet challenges head on.

(The author is a Principal of Providence Academy, Sangaiyumpham Nungphou | The views expressed are the writer’s own)

First Published:Oct. 11, 2020, 10:58 a.m.

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