The scream could be heard from the other houses, amplified by the lack of movement on the street: “I hate you coronavirus! You ruined my birthday!” He came from the house of Damián, a 7-year-old boy, who lives in San Martín with his parents and his two brothers in a PH in front, without a patio or terrace. The outbreak was his, given the evidence that the plans of the player and celebration with the boys at school and soccer will have to wait for the arrival of better times.
That of friendless birthdays is just one of the many novelties that the pandemic and isolation brought to the lives of children and adolescents. Classes suspended, inability to be with friends, sports and extracurricular activities on pause until further notice, lack of own routines, little attention from parents -absorbed by telework and concerns-, overexposure to technology and excessive sedentary lifestyle are some of the distinctive features that mark the new daily life of the youngest of the family in the days of Covid-19.
Concerned about the economic and health impact of the virus, parents and specialists cannot always gauge the effects that life in quarantine has on children and adolescents. Even on those who are sheltered and with full access to many comforts, the pandemic meant such an abrupt alteration of all routines, that it is necessary to have an attentive eye and the speed of reflexes necessary to detect risky behaviors or that can give us indications of a serious damage to his mental health.
“Although it is true that children are not a risk group for this pandemic, at Unicef we began to say that they are the
of the coronavirus. It affects them in so many ways in their daily life, that we must be vigilant to detect any risky consequences on their mental health, “warns Luisa Brumana, representative of Unicef Argentina.
The institution has just recently published a document entitled:
“Continuity in learning, protection and emotional containment. Keys to take care of boys and girls against the Covid-19”
. “We ask the private and public sectors for special flexibility in the way parents, caregivers and adults work, so that they can accompany children and adolescents at this time, at home, in the emotional restraint that the most need small and in the continuity of their studies those who are schooled “, can be read in one of their passages.
But altering routines is just one of the fronts that children and teens have to contend with these days. “Many times they live in environments where adults’ anguish and uncertainty are perceived at this time that we are living, with the television on all day and a bombardment of images that is not healthy,” says Brumana, who calls for special attention to the possibility that the confinement favors the
“Isolation also exposes boys, girls and adolescents to different forms of violence, both physical -exerted against them or against a member of the family group-, as well as other types of violence, linked or
violent forms of parenting
like yelling or inattention. Perhaps these attitudes were not part of the parenting style before the pandemic. But this is a time of great concern for adults, which can generate different types of reactions. In that case, we recommend taking a distance until we calm down and try to reach the boys when we are calmer, “adds Brumana, also an epidemiologist.
Affected by uncertainty
Dr. in Psychology Clara Raznoszczyk Schejtman remembers the recent case of a small patient of hers, whom her relatives greeted a few days ago on Skype. “With the first and the second, he was very happy, but when they passed the camera to the fourth member of his family, the boy began to cry uncontrollably, very distressed. Seeing the relatives in a virtual way reconnected him with all that
world that was paused
from isolation, “he analyzes.
However, for the specialist it is essential to maintain a communication channel, even if it is virtual. An absolutely natural medium for teens. ”
they are used to living in a network. The mode of communication doesn’t change that much for them. Children, on the other hand, require more physical contact, face to face. Adolescents are more sedentary and today they are being enabled permissions that they do not usually have, such as staying up late connected. Of course: the romantic, sensual and even sexual part must be inhibited at this time, in which it is time to pass
more time with the family
, receive other types of demands and more requests for collaboration, which can generate all kinds of friction, “says the specialist, also a regular professor at the Faculty of Psychology at the UBA and the University of Belgrano.
There is unanimous agreement among experts on the need for adults to be clear
between the boys and the pandemic. Talk to them about what is happening and ask them how they feel. A few days ago, María Paula Sosa wrapped her 9-year-old daughter Candelaria, as she does every night when she goes to sleep, saying that she loved her until the end of the world. “Don’t tell me that, Mom, that the end of the world is missing a little,” replied the girl, anguished. “One tends to believe that they are safe from everything but they are not. This
so uncertain environment
it affects them a lot “, reflects María Paula.
“Boys and girls are also affected by this whole crisis, they capture emotional states and can express it in ways that are sometimes
uncomfortable or conflicting
. There is no doubt that this global humanitarian crisis affects everyone. Adults are immersed in concerns about work and health fears, this means very high levels of demand for mothers and fathers, who must respond to this new family and social scenario. I think that it is presented as a challenge, but also as an opportunity, to be creative in the search for encounters linked to communication and imagination “, says Graciela Paolicchi, regular professor of Evolutionary Psychology of Childhood, from the Faculty of Psychology from the UBA.
While isolation is expected to have deleterious effects on children’s emotional health, some of them should trigger our alerts. “All use of technologies exclusively and excessively
no social contacts
It can be harmful. This is a mandatory preventive social isolation, where we can use technologies to have interactions with family and friends because they help to replace direct personal contacts; but at the intra-family level they must be combined with other interactions, “recommends Paolicchi.
Clara Raznoszczyk Schejtma also provides some keys. “We must be vigilant in case the boys cry a lot and cannot be calmed. Also if they are very unmotivated. It is important to tell them that this is temporary, that at some point it will happen. And, of course, it is important to ask helps in those cases, “suggests the specialist.
For her part, Luisa Brumana proposes to be attentive to the type of technological consumption of both boys and adolescents. “The pandemic and isolation are a good opportunity to talk to them about cyberbullying and other very harmful practices,” advises the UNICEF official, an institution that has a series of recommendations for children and adolescents to go through this pandemic in the healthiest way. possible.
RECOMMENDATIONS TO CONTAIN BOYS AND GIRLS:
- Prevent them from seeing or hearing news with a sensationalistic or morbid approach.
- Avoid being exposed to news about the problem for a long time, even if the treatment is adequate: the time we spend on a topic can also cause concern, even if the tone is not alarmist.
- Do not involve them in adult conversations about the situation: even if we are not talking to them, they know what we are talking about and draw their conclusions.
- Spend time talking about your doubts and concerns, in a language adapted to your understanding, but not misleading.
- Insist on healthy habits like washing hands with soap and water.
- Remind them of the hygienic measures that protect others, for example: the use of handkerchiefs and napkins, avoid sharing cutlery and glasses.
RECOMMENDATIONS TO CONTAIN ADOLESCENTS
- Listen to your concerns, answer your questions, add your proposals to mitigate risks.
- Avoid excessive exposure to news on the Internet and in audiovisual media. Discuss the effects of oversaturation and fake news.
- Contain the different emotional reactions that they can express and explain that they are normal reactions to an abnormal situation.
- Encourage them to express and communicate their feelings.
- Avoid spending all day connected to the screens: propose new routines to ensure study time and physical activity.