Impact of Lockdown on Preschool Children

Before March 2020 no one had imagined what a pandemic was. Even when the first lockdown was imposed many thought it was a temporary phase of a month or two and life will be restored to normal soon. But many experts had already predicted it for atleast 2 years. For the first few days we even enjoyed the quietness that spread in the environment and the sudden breaks that were applied in our fast pace life. But soon we also realised how we take so many things for granted as they are easily available. We realised the importance of freedom of movement which was highly restricted. Another realisation all of us with children at home got was the importance of school.

First thing that got affected for the entire household in absence of school was the daily rhythm. The entire family works in a set rhythm even if one child at home is going to school. Right from waking up on time, to morning routines, to meal times, to sleep habits everything is governed by the school routine of the children at home. With flexibility in office timings as it is life is in a bad rhythm and to add to that the school got online and in most cases got into a recorded mode rather than live mode. A child could chose to do the schooling anytime of the day . Children slept till 10 and 11 in the morning and then did not sleep till midnight. Rhythm is considered to be one of the 4 pillars of healthy early childhood life and also of adult life in general. Most of the adults too were stressed out due to irregular and extended office calls stretching into late night and sometimes even in the wee hours of morning. Lack of rhythm causes unpredictability and anything that is unpredictable cause anxiety and stress.

Another fallout of the social distancing and isolation is lack of social and emotional skills in young children. So many children who were born during the pandemic have not seen people other than their family. If they were lucky to stay in a joint family they saw atleast a few people other than their parents. But there are a large number of toddlers who have grown up in their formative years with only their parents around. This definitely affects the social and emotional intelligence of a child which is rapidly developing in the first 6 years of a child’s life. In quite a few social functions I notice young children acting very hostile towards people and parents using terms like lock down babies or lock down syndromes very casually. Many parents who are aware and see that this needs correction make attempts to get them to interact with people consistently. These learnings which the children got naturally through the environment earlier, now parents will have to make deliberate attempts to imbibe them in these little ones.

As we have opened doors of school we see the effects of stunted social and emotional intelligence in our preschoolers. Preschool time which was earlier just considered as entertainment and casual playtime by many was one of the many things that was taken for granted. But this pandemic has brought out its importance in the formative years of a child’s life more than ever before.

Little toddlers who have not seen many people are more anxious than ever to see new faces in school. They do not want to interact with other children and are happy to play alone. They are not interested to share the toys and for that matter not even share their teacher’s attention. They lack patience to wait for their turn and are insensitive to their peer’s needs. Children have been used to attending online classes with the system being muted. They were all alone in front of the system and could talk and yell without being heard by the teacher. They got undivided attention of their parent during the online classes. They do the same in the offline classes and the teacher spends time to train them to take turns and be quiet while others are talking.

So, as we start our offline classes we are focusing more on activities that will develop their emotional quotient (EQ) than their intelligence quotient (IQ) . School and parents will have to be aware about this and not focus only on academics but also do a lot of activities to fill up this gap in emotional intelligence created due to long period of isolation. Including a lot of exercise to strengthen their eye sight , including a lot of sports activities will also help to combat the effects of too much screen time which was unavoidable during the pandemic. Children may have got used to a lot of screen time but parents and school will have to put in extra efforts towards getting them out of this habit .

Finally I would say to parents of children who have lost precious learnings in the formative years to not stress them all of a sudden as schools have opened up. Building a strong foundation is necessary for all further learnings of life. If the foundation is weak and you hurry the child to move on to higher classes it maybe detrimental for the child’s future learning process. An extra year spent in building the foundation now may prove a very wise decision as compared to a life time of difficulty in learning in future.