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How To Take Care Of Mental Health Among Children During Pandemic

Today’s hectic schedules – attending zoom classes, appearing for online exams, not going out to play with your friends, and no activities have left children feeling drained, with a lack of concentration.

Eshita Bhargava | Nov 09, 2020

Today’s hectic schedules – attending zoom classes, appearing for online exams, not going out to play with your friends, and no activities have left children feeling drained, with a lack of concentration.

Our children’s lives have been in upheaval for more than seven months now – The result? Disappointment, anxiety, and depression levels have skyrocketed in youth.

A recent report from the CDC shows the rates of anxiety and depression among adolescents has tripled since the pandemic began. While anxiety and stress are both physical reactions to the limits the Covid-19 has put on our kid’s social and daily lives, it’s essential to give our kids the support they need to navigate these trying times.

“Since kids are not getting out much, physical activity has reduced and so has sun exposure which is important for Vitamin D synthesis in the body. Vitamin D deficiency is already very common and the pandemic situation is likely making it worse. A lack of playtime with other kids of their age is also impacting the social development of children,” Dr.Diksha S Chadha, Medical Director, Sirona Hygiene Pvt Ltd told Outlook.

“Playtime is very important for the physical, mental, and emotional growth of the kids. The interaction with the peer group is very important for their mental well-being. Lack of activity was leading to more screen time and a sedentary lifestyle which made them pile on weight. Weight gain and loneliness were the major setbacks of the pandemic,” said Pallavi Bhardwaj, Health and Lifestyle Coach and the Co-Founder of Save Well Being.

With increased screen time, Chadha said it is necessary to ensure that kids are doing some physical activity daily. “Whether it's dancing or jumping or yoga, you will be surprised how much kids enjoy these activities, especially, if parents are doing it with them. Vitamin D supplements can be given to kids after discussing it with their pediatrician. For healthy eyesight, blue light filters can be applied to the screens. Avoid classes on smaller screens like mobiles and prefer laptop or tablet screens instead. Screen brightness and contrast should be adjusted for comfortable viewing and screens should always be at eye level or laptop screen be tilted up for comfortable viewing angle. If a child complains of pain in eyes, or excess watering of eyes, don't think twice about consulting an ophthalmologist near you.”

Bhardwaj believed, “Involve kids on quiz time, board gamesinstead of the screen. Getting into some healthy conversation and indulging in good nutritive meals are some ways to keep healthy. They should not have a high-calorie diet like packaged chips and canned juices but should consume a nutritionally dense diet.”

An increase in weight is the most obvious sign of obesity. Remember that at some ages, kids gain weight before gaining height and can look chubby for a while. “The best measure for obesity in children can be through weight for height index and certain other indices. BMI should not be used for assessing obesity in children. WHO offers software for the growth monitoring of children which can be used by parents. Your pediatrician can help you in assessing your child for obesity basis simple clinic examination,” Chadha said while talking about obesity in kids.

“A balanced diet, regular physical activity, and a good lifestyle can help prevent obesity in children. Involving older children in household chores is a good way to promote physical work as well as responsible behaviour in young adults,” she suggested a few solutions.

Family and teachers can help children maintain proper weight by helping them develop healthy eating habits and limiting high-calorie intake. “Help children in getting physically active, reduce screen time, and get adequate sleep,” Bhardwaj said.

That’s not all, Chadha told us that during the growth stage, when the body is building itself, kids need more protein in their diet along with a healthy amount of carbs and fats. Metabolic functions also require an adequate amount of water, vitamins, and minerals.

“Some easy ways to incorporate protein in a diet is by including eggs, pulses, besan, green leafy vegetables, etc. Although most moms try their best to do this already, many kids refuse to eat healthily. Protein supplements like powders should not be the easy way out of this. There are a ton of recipes on the internet to help moms with easy solutions to incorporate more protein in diets with foods that kids will love to eat.”

She added, “Avoiding sugar-infused drinks, caffeinated drinks, sodas, malt dextrin enriched packaged foods, and excess processed meals should be avoided for kids. It is equally important to give kids healthy fats in their diets. Homemade ghee, butter, olive oil, etc. should be preferred and palm oil-rich processed packaged food items should be avoided. You are exactly what you eat and each element you eat becomes a tiny part of your body's physical structure.”