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Childhood lost in pandemic

Published: 25th Jul 2021 11:51 pm | Updated: 26th Jul 2021 12:34 am

Hyderabad: When kids who grew up during the pandemic look back at their childhood, it’s probably going to be memories of online classes, birthdays without friends and sheer boredom.

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For them, what should have been a carefree time full of little joys and experiences has been lost in a deluge of masks, sanitisers and staring at their teacher through a screen.
Normal life may well be years away. So the parents are a worried lot, fearing their child may grow up impacted cognitively, emotionally and socially.

Cut-off from outside

Kavita Sundar Raj, a pre-primary teacher, says teachers were caught off-guard on how to keep kindergartners engaged online and ensure they grasped what was taught.

“These are their formative years where they learn to understand what’s happening around. The way they process information is different from adults. Those who entered pre-primary this year have no concept of what is a school, uniforms, friends, classrooms…,” shares Kavita. The break in ‘regular’ school routine means teachers often see bleary-eyed, irritated kids on screen since it’s online class and ‘parents think they don’t have to get the kid ready for it’.

Living online

Distraction is a big concern for most. In every family with young kids or preschoolers, the challenges vary. No social interaction with friends, less playing outdoors and adapting to online learning. The amount of screen time has doubled over the year.

Cognitive ability and language development that usually happens on the playground is missing. Instead, children are picking up on the anxiety in their parents and learning to stay away from other kids.

“This is the time they should be asking questions and interacting with the outside world. When time comes to go back to school, kids will grow up to be more sensitive and any comment by friends could be seen critical. They may retreat into themselves. They won’t know how to respond in casual conversations. They may grow up aggressive too,” observes Dr Harini Atturu, consultant psychiatrist, Care Hospitals, Hitec City. The burden of filling this gap is falling on parents again.

In PR professional Ranganath Thota’s household, his 10-year-old daughter is unhappy about not being able to make new friends.

“The only friends she has seen in person are her best friends. She has never met the new students in her class. She gets angry when we don’t allow her to meet her friends,” says Ranganath. It’s a difficult choice to make between avoiding social interactions and putting children at risk.

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