How Can We Safeguard Children from the Pandemic?

Reopening of schools

The coronavirus pandemic has completely disrupted children’s lives, making them vulnerable to many challenges all at once. A normal school-going child is facing pangs of anxiety due to the sudden change of schooling environment and experience. They are also not able to meet their friends or play outdoors. In such a situation, we need to think about ways to safeguard children from the pandemic.

Pre-pandemic classroom teaching

A variety of challenges

Families have suddenly been thrown together and have to spend a lot more time with each other in close quarters. In the pre-pandemic era, each family member was busy in their world till now. This sudden closeness and lack of space/me-time can lead to many misunderstandings, fights, and interpersonal issues.

There are added challenges for teenagers. Their sleeping and eating patterns have completely changed and impacted their circadian rhythm. This is adding to the already ongoing hormonal imbalance they face.

These are just a few problems that can be dealt with through planning or therapy. 

Our survey showed some of the challenges for children during the pandemic.

Poor children at a disadvantage

The poor are at a bigger disadvantage. Living conditions, getting a meal on their plates, or access to healthcare are only some of the problems they face. Among such problems, education is the last priority for them. Paying for education just adds to their financial burden.

Home environment for many children during the pandemic

These children often also have to face toxic households. On the surface, every individual is good. However, one never knows how toxic a person/family can be without experiencing it personally.

Most children who go through domestic violence and abuse are held inside their homes by their abusers with no way out. For any organisation trying to help or reach out during the pandemic, there is no means to survey, not enough support to help the child in distress, and mostly no information and no way in. The children are no longer in regular contact with their teachers and welfare workers with whom they can share.

Need to safeguard children from the pandemic

Like countries such as Brazil, Bangladesh, and Mexico, we can include messages on violence/abuse when you make a call. There should also be a hotline that will respond immediately.

Hygiene kits are an important tool to prevent the spread of the pandemic. These must be distributed to vulnerable children and their families. We must give out positive parenting tips, mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) services, and COVID-19 prevention messages through the use of loudspeakers at the community level.

It is important to set up a child helpline. This should allow counsellors to reach out to children remotely for case management and psychosocial support services.

What can citizens do? 

The best we citizens can do is look out for our neighbours or react to signs and reach out to either the abused or a helpline because there is no bigger trauma than going through it all alone. Preventing a mishappening may benefit a child’s life and give him a happy childhood instead of a traumatic one. This is one of the most important problems that need attention.

Spread the word around and help a child!

The writer is a volunteer with Smile Foundation.

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Sreya Allada

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