The Pandemic has changed social behaviour in more ways than imagined. There has been a marked change in the behaviour of adults around the world. People have found renewed comfort in the home, there have been changes in family values and relationships of family members with each other. Work culture has changed with the new norm of Work from home which is actually harder work with no limit to timings. People are shy of going out until absolutes necessary and combine several chores in a hasty trip outdoors before returning to the comfort of home.
Helping Children To Readjust To Normal Post Pandemic Social Behaviour
Companies have realised the benefits of employees working from home as a potential saving on office infrastructure. There are long hours and no overtime as employees are already anyway. Online stores and restaurants have flourished as people are now increasingly ordering from home. One day the pandemic may be gone but some of these altered lifestyles will have become habits.
But what happens to a child that was born during or just before the pandemic and has almost no recollection of what life was like before the pandemic?
Assistant professor Dr Jenny Radesky is a developmental behavioural paediatrician at Michigan Medicine. She says that cognitive memories begin to form in children from the age of 2.5 years. This means that children who are presently aged between 3 to 4 years do not have any recollection of what life used to be like before the pandemic.
The assistant professor was referring to unusual cases brought to her about young toddlers being taken out to a poolside outing and to public parks. These children actually exhibited fear of being outdoor and behaved apparently very irrationally while they were out of their homes. They began to act normal and looked relieved after they were brought back to the comfort of their homes.
Assistant professor Radesky pointed out that the normal life for adults is an entirely new experience for toddlers and the transition from a lockdown environment to pre-pandemic lifestyles should be done slowly, especially for young children who are not even familiar with what the normal lifestyle is.
Dr Neha Chaudhary, a child psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, has studied child psychology and behaviour in detail and has this to say about the transition to normal life: that parents and adults need to focus on social connections and relationships. She reminds her patients that the 18-month environment of social isolation during the pandemic is the only normal life these toddlers have ever known and any attempt to snap back into a pre-pandemic outdoor centred lifestyle may be disastrous for children.
Dr Neha Chaudhary also advises leaving children in nurseries initially for brief periods of time only as they are not familiar with being outside their home and their families. She advises sending the children outside with an elder brother or sister or even a cousin for a short walk or stroll so that the kids slowly start learning about the outside world.
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The psychiatrist advises parents to talk to their children and explain to them the necessity to begin a new life. The word to be used for them is a new life, not resume regular life as the temporary social isolation has come to mean normal life to the children. She pointed out that even adults are exhibiting nervousness in returning to pre-pandemic lifestyles and it is natural for children to act nervous.
On the flip side, child psychiatrists say in reassurance, children are mostly resilient and adjust quickly. A few sessions of individual presentations by the children with appreciation and applause will work wonders for the children as they are introduced to a world of creativity, talent and achieving the impossible.