With all that’s going on around us, we sometimes, tend to forget that our little ones are oblivious of what is going on in the world. We think they are happy in their own little world. But have you ever wondered, how are our little ones coping? How is your child’s mental health? A child's needs became ignored when, as adults, we got extremely busy with our respective lives, like managing the household, working from home, or doing a lot of things which were taken care of by others, like cooking, cleaning, dusting etc. Also, isn't this the right time to train them to take care of themselves, and build healthy behvaioral patterns? In the end, our teachings too shape them into responsible citizens and what's better than to start small?
I paused to ask that to myself yesterday, as my 4.5 year old daughter threw a monumental fit, when I asked her to do a menial task. Now, I can’t even remember the task (probably was me requesting her to go to bed). But, I do know that she and her little 2 year old brother’s tantrums have been worsening in the last 2 months that we have been under the lock-down. Then, I sort of had an epiphany. My kids are stressed out about everything that is going on. I think, as adults, we give our young ones very little credit. They might not understand the reasons, but they surely absorb all that is going around- the negativity, being cooped up, not being able to step outside the house, their parents being busy with loads of chores and office work. Our babies don’t know how to process this difficult time. Most of their regular ways of processing have been interrupted. For instance, my daughter isn’t going to school, so she can’t just talk to her friends or play-act at the playground with other children. They (my daughter and son) are stuck with each other. As a mom and a stay-at-home one at that (for the time being), I realised that I have to keep marching on and keep this household running in the most normal fashion as possible. I realised that, between my various chores at home, I need to find some extra time to play games with the kids, read to them, sing to them, or simply listen to their many pretend stories. Since they only have each other, they are bound to pull out each other’s hair as siblings of their age do, if left unattended.
Thankfully, my little ones have been quite brave through these tough times. They do request to go outside from time to time, but they also make peace with my random stories about a corona bug which they imagine to be an actual giant bug walking around outside, catching people. They understand that they need to pray, as well as abide by the rules for the Corona bug to go away, so that they can go outside to play, go to the mall, and go for beloved holidays. Our children are lonely for their friends and regular play, and sadly it took me a while to realize it.
Tell me if any of the following ring a bell: Are your children lonely? Do they cry out of the blue or get easily angry? Are they withdrawn and have no desire to do things they enjoy? Are they clingy for attention or overly fearful? Or is your child needing alone time, because there is just too much family around? If you answered yes to any of these then your child’s mental health needs to be a concern. So what can we do? As parents, we need to give them as much attention as possible. Listen to them when they are speaking to you, even if whatever they have to say at this age, is no revelation or anything new, but please, do act invested and interested in their conversation. I also have made a resolution to have them talk to their grandparents, relatives, friends on video calls. I keep them involved in whatever I do, like folding the laundry, or cleaning the surfaces with a dry cloth. This way, they also feel that I am not just treating them as naive babies but human beings whose opinions and content matter. It also becomes a medium of indulging them in work and routine habits, making them habitual to their own work, teaching them how to take care of little things so that when they grow up, they don't rubbish these little chores as something that's below them to do.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, these are difficult times for everyone, not just adults.
We need to be tuned in to our young ones’ needs as well, which in turn will help them to grow into calmer versions of themselves who can express themselves in a clear manner.
So take out some time today, to sit down with your little one, have a chat, ask what their imaginary friends are doing and engage them. Who knows you might unearth some important topics to talk about!