Ekta Ohri is the Founder of LitJoys, a learning venture that designs value-creating storybooks and experience-based learning games and activities. While founding LitJoys, she was inspired by British psychologist Sue Palmer’s term, ‘Toxic Childhood’, coined to address an overdependence on digital screens, unhealthy eating habits and preference for plastic toys, as well as a lack of parental involvement, which is impacting the physical and mental health and happiness of children. The “Lit” in LitJoys means many things to Ekta, from little children to literature as she wanted to build a love for reading in them. LitJoys also means ‘little’ moments of joys’ that parents can experience with their children, learning and unlearning together.
The current pandemic has created a mental health crisis for children. Some of the reasons for the rise in mental health issues among children can be ascribed to children being locked in their homes for extended periods, increased screen time and lack of physical connection with peers as they are unable to go to school. Along with that, children are spending less time outdoors and are unable to travel.
While older children can clearly express their emotions, younger children are not able to speak out and let out their frustrations in different ways. Children are definitely angrier nowadays and are screaming and shouting more. Some children may also be displaying a tendency towards violence with hitting others, or even themselves. They have reduced attention spans and are more restless. Children are also throwing a lot more tantrums. Not to mention, parents are also losing their patience working and managing children from home the entire day and screaming at them a lot more, instead of spending happier moments, which is aggravating the issue.
At my early learning venture, LitJoys, we have designed and created books and activities that help parents spend many moments of joy learning and unlearning together with their children. In my experience as a mother of a 7-year-old, understanding and supporting your child in these trying times can soothe their anxiety and address their mental health issues before they become too challenging.
A blend of little actions and activities can go a long way in calming your child.
Physical Touch: Maintain affectionate physical contact with your child with frequent hugs and cuddles throughout the day. This can be very reassuring for children, especially when they are throwing a temper tantrum.
Appreciation: If they are not doing something as you desire, instead of losing your cool, show appreciation and use positive motivation to proactively encourage them.
Give them the freedom to be themselves: While you are helping them plan their day between school time, homework and chores, do allow them some unstructured time to just be. Let them spend some time in the day doing what they enjoy so that they get time to unwind.
Connect with nature: A lot has been said about how spending time with nature makes children a lot happier. Get children to help you to water the plants and feed the birds every day to develop a daily connection with nature as well as empathy. Nature does not only include the flora and fauna around them but all elements of the Earth, from insects to birds, as well as elements of the sky. Connecting with nature is a wonderful break from screen time, which also relaxes them. It also improves their observation and cognitive skills, hones empathy and sensitivity towards other living beings.
Spending time with them every day: Spending time with children every day is very important. You can use this time in different ways, from doing small household tasks together, exploring new hobbies together, discovering new things, reading and playing games together. We have designed our books, City of Stars and My Gulmohar Tree, in a way that moms and dad can also enjoy role-playing them with their kids. Our behavioural changing games like the Apple Food Menu and Save the World also allow parents to have fun and meaningful conversations while playing along with their children.
Understand their Emotions: Children may not be able to fully articulate themselves well enough, so you must take time out to understand their emotions, good, bad or ugly and help them resolve their feelings.
In the end, while you address the mental health issues for your children, don’t forget to pay attention to your own mental health as well. Do take time out to meditate or exercise. Children often reflect the mental state of their parents so staying calm and relaxed will benefit you and the entire family as well.