Children ask interesting questions. Coronavirus has ensured that their armoury increases further. Though, the areas that they venture into asking these questions are, at times, not easy to manage. Our twin daughters did ask about death and illness in their regular queries. However, in the times of the coronavirus, the existential questions raised by them have increased in frequency and intensity.
Needless to say, coronavirus has impacted our lives. Apart from us adults, it also affects young minds. We, as adults, try to comprehend and interpret what is going on around and try to be in control of the narrative. However, for children, I have no idea how their impressionable minds are trying to figure out the happenings.
Children fall ill, so do their parents and adults around. The mention of the diseases and medicines are limited to the sickness period in the house. It is not a subject that gets discussed daily for an extended duration. The coronavirus has suddenly changed this context. Even though everyone in the family is in sound health, the virus ailment gets spoken about daily.
Our soon-to-be six years old twin daughters have now been hearing about coronavirus for 4-5 months. They understand that people fall ill due to the virus and that it can be life-threatening. Out of the blue, their happy-go-lucky world has been turned upside down. No more parks, no more field visits with Dirty Feet team, no more outdoors.
Why people die because of the virus? Would people be alive if the virus was not there? Why death?
We have no idea what to answer and how to answer. We cannot shoo them away, we cannot engage in a discussion with them, we cannot bluff our way out. I keep mumbling about numbers, hygiene, masks, social distancing and they do not get any hang of it. They keep asking and then they get busy in their play leaving us with their unanswered questions.
Unexpectedly, they pop up a question if they/us are going to get affected by the virus. Either one or both of them look at us expectantly to hear that they will be fine, all of us will be fine, all the people they know will be fine, all the people in the world will be fine. It is extremely difficult to face these moments that pop up out of nowhere.
A below incident happened 4-5 weeks back and it makes me wonder about the impact of the coronavirus and the discussions thereof on the small minds.
During Lockdown 2.0, one of the girls developed a certain medical condition. We spoke to her paediatrician and sent him the videos of the child. He told us to see a super-specialist ASAP and helped us get an appointment the very next day. With the help of a family friend, we worked out the logistics to and fro.
Suddenly, the kid said that she will not come to the hospital. Going to a hospital is a routine affair for us; the girls are used to the medication as well. Why would she refuse all of a sudden? We kept asking her but she would not answer. Finally, she said that with the coronavirus around, we should not venture out during the lockdown. She was afraid that if we go out we might catch the infection, and she was scared. She was too scared.
We kept explaining to her that we will take all the precautions and hopefully, we should be fine. Also, the visit to the super-specialist cannot be postponed for her health was at stake. She just would not listen and kept on crying that she does not want to go out of the house. It was so terrifying that thinking about this incident even now brings tears to my eyes.
She did not say in as many words, but we could hear her saying that she did not want to die. It was so terrifying for us. The fear of coronavirus had crept into her thinking and would not let her go.
(PS: We did manage to convince her. The super-specialist cleared her of any serious issues that would require medical intervention).
This keeps me thinking about the impact of coronavirus on young minds. What are they thinking about it? How is it impacting their behaviour? What is going to be the future consequences in their lives? How will they be able to soak in the new normal of living with the coronavirus? And, again making a change to their routine when the vaccine/medication finally arrives.
I fear that the coronavirus has hastened the exit of childhood from children. With all the existential questions clouding their minds, the virus is fast-tracking children to sullen adulthood, much before they should.
I have no idea how to answer their existential questions and help them deal with this frightening phase of life.
Do help with your thoughts in these trying times.