Open Spaces For Children In India: A Myth

What is the ultimate joy of being a child? What should be the perk of being children? Where and how children get to live their childhood?

Few more questions. What is the most blissful for an adult in watching over children? What is it that delights adults, which a child engages in? For adults, what would be their childhood memories?

These are no trick questions. Think hard. A hint – All the above questions and even more questions that you can think of, similar to the above, has a single answer. Irrespective of who you are, where you are, varied social/economic class, the answer remains the same and yes, again an only answer.

For me, the answer is children in their natural surroundings, exploring, interacting and playing with other children, oblivious of the world around, just being children and having fun. There cannot be any other answer.

A child is not going to remember gadgets and toys, clothes and gifts when s/he grows up. A child is surely not going to recollect when s/he first saw the mobile and the countless mind-numbing screen time s/he had. But, a child is surely going to remember the experiences and the events that s/he has lived through; outside the home and more so, with other children. Come to think of it, these are the memories of your childhood that you still carry with you.

By default, these memories and experiences will have a common thread – open spaces. There is no exact definition of these open spaces. They can be a playground, an empty plot of land, a vacant parking lot, a gully/road with less vehicular traffic, with/without shade, but open nonetheless and also, safe and secure for children to mingle and goof around without adult/parental supervision.

Importance of open spaces for children

Open spaces and children obviously go hand-in-hand. Childhood connotes freedom and being self, uninhibited and natural. What better place to express this, than open spaces? Not just outside the confines of the four walls, but also beyond the endless directives of overbearing parents/adults?

Open spaces expose a child to all kinds of environs and interactions. It gives an opportunity to children for hands-on and experiential learning that no amount of simulated and artificial set-ups can ever do. And, yes it is free of cost, available any time of the day, never stocked out, fresh and novel every time and a lot more.

I can go on and on about the importance of open spaces for children. But I suppose, each one of us is aware of it and that’s not the point. The point is that even though all of us know about the benefits of open spaces for kids, all of us are blissfully unaware about the conspicuous absence of the open spaces, anywhere and everywhere, for children to express themselves.

Where are the open spaces?

Try to recall open spaces for children in any of India’s cities of today. Try harder. Come on, there has to be at least one, hidden somewhere, in the neighbourhood, in the ward/locality, or maybe in the entire city/state/country. Sigh, I cannot find any. You are lucky if you have found one for your child.

Mind you, similar to a spontaneous childhood not amenable to exacting adulthood, open spaces do not fall in the realm of adult understanding.

A playground is not an open space. It is not accessible to children across age-groups/it may not be free. More so, most of the playgrounds have now been taken over for some sort of sports coaching or the other purposes.

A park is not an open space. Do not believe me. Try visiting any large-enough park that is open from dawn to dusk. The trees will be taken over by swarming couples in dire needs of privacy. Surely, they are no places for children to be left alone. A community park is a shared resource between the retirees and children. Retirees do not like to have any kind of disturbance in their eternal chit-chats. The result – children of all ages are driven out from the parks or caged in one corner.

A play-area of a gated community is not an open space. Yes, it is open and accessible, but selectively. It is not within reach of the children of maids and drivers working there, children cutting across social and economic strata. This is a must-have condition of open spaces – kids getting diverse and heterogeneous exposure and not a mono-culture of ivory towers.

Vacant plots and parking lots, empty roads and by-lanes hardly exist in today’s urban India. If they do, they are not safe and secure.

Options, Choices, Future

In such a scenario wherein open spaces for children in India have turned into a mirage, what could be the options, the choices that we could have made and have actually made? What does the present herald about the future of open spaces for children? I have written about this in the second part to the current article. Publishing soon.

What are your thoughts on the open spaces, rather the absence of it, for India’s children?

Parenting Is Growing Up Together

Does parenting impact a person’s world views and her/his inner self? Would spending time and engaging with child/children have bearing on how a person would have conducted herself/himself otherwise? Is parenting all about raising children or does it influence parents too? Everybody will have their thoughts. I can answer for myself. For me, parenting is growing up together.

O +ve and B +ve have turned six. I have completed three and a half years as a stay-at-home father. What started as an impulse has turned into a full-fledged passion, with my wife’s staunch support. Turning back, I don’t think I would have done anything different than choosing to be a part of my children’s growing up years (yes, the finances pinch, that’s another real-life story).

What have I learnt with this experience? Was I better off in the corporate rat-race? Has this been the time of reckoning that I had been trying to find all the years before? Is it worth the deriding looks and scorn that I generate with my answer that I am a stay-at-home father? How has it been for the girls, their mother and me?

My answer, again, would be the same – Growing Up Together. Not anything but Growing Up Together. Why? Here we go.

Parenting is a never-before experience

Look at it like this. Whatever we do in life, we are taught/trained/instructed all along. Everywhere, school/college/job/profession, there would always be somebody’s watchful eyes over our actions. There are text-books/manuals/SOPs for outside/professional world. We have norms/customs/rituals for family/personal world. But what about parenting? Nothing but the instincts of parents.

Yes, the grandparents get involved. But, apart from their physical babysitting, their value-addition in other spheres is a matter of debate for parents. When parenting is such an experience without any precedence, without any prior preparation, without any hand-holding; how can there be no learning at every step?

In a job/profession, when done long enough, the surprises aren’t many. The situations/decisions repeat themselves. But for a single-person enterprise, there are dedicated functional teams to take care of peripheral stuff around you. You are the boss of your work.

Compare it with parenting. Here, no two days are the same. Even two hours aren’t the same. The situations, routinely, are never-heard/never-seen before. And, there are no teams to support a parent, except for an equally exasperated life-partner. You are the subordinate to your off-spring.

Tell me, how is it not possible to learn in situations like these, day-in and day-out? Every competency listed out in the performance appraisal charade will find resonance in the parenting. Every management jargon taught in, alienated from ground realities, B-Schools will find an echo in parenting. All the life-lessons emanate from life experiences and parenting is a key on-going life event, should you choose to be a parent.

The above is what I encounter/feel every day, hence I feel parenting is growing up together. At least for me.

Learning happens from children, too

On the face of it, adults teach children. Children are the receiving party to any learning and parents, along with schools and society, strive to make children life-ready. Can there ever be anything that parents can pick up from their progeny on whose education they end up spending a fortune of money, time and efforts? Unlikely, one might say.

My wife is an ardent believer that there is ample enough to learn from children. Only if, children are given a chance to express themselves and parents keep a receptive mind. Do not believe this?

Try teaching curiosity to children. What about exploring? Playfulness? Resilience? Spending an evening or morning with nature/plants/insects? Try teaching “having fun” to children. Or the dreadful “happiness” as defined by the equally dreadful Delhi government (do adults need to be taught to be happy or children)? I have not even reached innocence, simplicity and the likes.

Accept it. There are enough and more things to be learnt from children, only if we are game. We might teach them the hard skills, they can teach us the soft skills that we have long forgotten and stopped attaching any importance to. We can learn from kids if we get rid of the fascination and urgency to make them reach adulthood and be our replicas, sullen and inept.

I have bought this concept of child-led parental learning. It needs a lot of re-programming of the mind, my mind that is, and I am trying hard.

Growing Up Together

All of family/social/school/corporate learning is not of much use to me in hands-on parenting. I have nowhere to hide my weaknesses in front of my children. Even worse, they pick up from me. If I do wish good for my children, I have no option but to improve on myself, which I avoided/cooked up excuses not to do, all these years.

To do this course-correction for self, I also have the biggest of enablers – my daughters. Through their daily actions, I get a dose of what all is possible should I try and see the world through their eyes. Life is not as convoluted and mind-numbing as I have made it out to be. I can live a life if I give life a chance – my daughters’ teaching.

Needless to say, the change is not easy and there is a lot of friction as the old self refuses to let go.

In nutshell, parenting for me is – Growing Up Together.

Toys And Games For Indian Children: A Missed Childhood

Have you ever tried buying toys or games? I tried in a shop claiming a decent assortment of toys and games. I found a Scrabble, a Pictionary, a Monopoly, a Battleship, 5-6 more games and that’s about it. For lack of options, I tried out online portals. It had a plethora of games claiming to be fun with learning, but for an exclusive game or a toy option, it was nothing more than what I saw in the store.

I walked all the aisles of the toys and games section in the store. An entire section was devoted to the assortment of Barbie dolls. One section had only the guns. One section was for blocks and one was for battery-operated toys. The last section dealt with the games mentioned above. I could not understand what were the options for children to just play?

I did a Google search on the Indian toys industry, found an article from The Hindu. It was a shocker.

3 facts about Indian toys industry

“The Indian toy market is about 0.5% of the world’s toy market,” says R Jeswant, VP Sales & Marketing, Funskool India Ltd (Source: The Hindu, March 14, 2020).

This is outrightly crazy. India has 17.7% of the world’s population (Source: Worldometers). If we talk only about children, India’s share in the world would anytime be more than 17.7%. Meaning, we have more than 18% of the world’s children in this country and they have only about 0.5% of the world’s toys to play with.

“85% of what’s sold in Indian toys market is imported. Again, 85% of the toys India imports is from China”, (Source: The Hindu, March 14, 2020).

This is another bummer. We have a pitiable share of the world market and whatever we do have comes from outside the country. China supplies 72.25% of Indian toys. If we ban China, and that we should, our children, for the time Make In India ramps up production, will have nothing to play with. A real nothing.

“India has $1.5 billion toy industry”, (Source: The Hindu, March 14, 2020).

$1.5 billion comes to 11238 Cr.  In 2019, about 26.62 % of the Indian population was in the 0-14 year category (Source: statista.com). This will come to 36.75 Cr below 14 years, though this is necessarily not the cut-off for toys and games. Combining the above 2 numbers will give us a budget of Rs. 305/- per child in India for buying toys and games for an entire year. A princely sum.

Unanswered Questions

  1. What would the children of the rest of the world be playing that Indian children are missing out on? Would the difference be limited to quantity or variety and quality of toys and games?
  2. How would this differential availability of toys and games manifest in Indian adults and adults in other parts of the world, who had access to them in their childhood?
  3. Is the limited access to toys and games for Indian children a recent phenomenon? Or has it been like this, historically?
  4. The Indian toy market is very small. What could be the reason? There is no demand because there is no supply. Or, there is no supply because there is no demand.
  5. Pictionary, Scrabble, Monopoly etc are games with a Western origin. Why aren’t these or for that matter any of the games not available in the vernacular avatar? Not even Pictionary cards?
  6. What about the Indian traditional toys and games? What are they? Where are they? Why there has never been scaling up for those 40-50 families in Channapatna, Chitrakoot, Kondapalli etc?
  7. China manufactures 72.25% of toys and games in the Indian market. How did this happen? How did we let it happen? What was the scenario earlier?
  8. India has hardly any outdoor spaces left in the urban areas for children to come out. If the toys and games are minuscule, what are the avenues for Indian children to play? Do they play at all?
  9. India has a plethora of institutional set-ups for children. If their buying of toys and games is taken out of the Indian numbers, what exactly would be left for the children at home?
  10. Lastly, what would be the thoughts of Indian parents about toys and games that it leads to such abysmal numbers?

My views

  1. Weight of school bags gets heavier by the day in India.
  2. Weight of parental expectations gets heavier by the day in India. (Why bother for anything that does not count towards JEE/NEET?)
  3. Parents who have not lived their childhood perpetuates the same with their children.
  4. As on date in India, malls are open, restaurants are open, religious places are open. But, the children parks are shut. Why? We don’t expect the children to play, only study online education. Hence, the continued lockdown for children below 10 years, 4 months over and counting.
  5. Letting children be themselves and have fun is a losing proposition in today’s world.

Above mentioned points are my guesses. Maybe, all wrong. After all, no children have ever complained; not even after becoming adults.

What would be your views about toys and games for Indian children?

PS: I consider Barbie a stereotype, not a toy. Similarly, the guns are meant for Army and Police, not for children. With all these STEM fun & learning combinations, why can’t we let children have just unbridled fun without the prerequisite of learning?

Temper Tantrums: Don’ts And Do’s

In the first part, I wrote about the temper tantrums as an inevitable element of growing up for children as well as parents. The first strategy to deal with temper tantrums is to try that they do not occur in the first place. However, they are bound to happen. So, how to deal with them?

Temper Tantrums Don’ts and Do’s

Basis first-hand experience as a hands-on and stay-at-home parent, I have a laundry list of Don’ts to deal with temper tantrums. The Do’s list consists of just one.

  1. Don’t focus on the surroundings.

The child is throwing up in public. The child is bad behaviour personified. Everybody is looking in the direction of the child and the parent. A parent is feeling ashamed, wants to run away from the scene, wants the earth to open up below the feet.

What should a parent do? Just forget about the people around. Believe me, everybody has only sympathy for the parent facing the child. Each parent in the audience has gone through this ordeal herself/himself. Why should they look down on anyone who is going through what they have endured themselves? For the others, either they do not have children or they had children so long ago that they have forgotten how it was way back then.

The child in rage deserves the sole attention from the parent, and not the notion of being a cool parent. It is fine. Simply put, everybody understands a parent’s position.

2. Don’t distract the child. If the distraction would have worked, temper tantrums would not have happened in the first place. It has failed, do not repeat it. It will make matters worse.

3. Don’t reward/punish the child to get rid of the situation. Even under normal circumstances, rewards and punishment are not the suggested parenting tools. When the storm is at the peak, they are not going to deliver. It will be further detrimental to the situation.

4. Don’t give in to the child. Once a parent does this, temper tantrums become a part of the learned behaviour of the child.

It is a split-second decision. If the parent wants to give in, do it before the explosion. Not as an afterthought.

5. Don’t reason with the child. Again, this could and would have been done earlier to avoid the situation. But, the fact that it has happened means either the reasoning has failed or the moment has gone to engage in a dialogue.

Come to think of it. When an adult is in a fury, s/he would not listen to anyone. How does one expect a child to do this? Not a worthwhile proposition.

6. Don’t leave the child alone. When the child is angry, s/he is the most vulnerable and needs emotional support. How can anyone be left alone at the moment of crisis?

Again, consider an adult in a child’s shoe of being infuriated. The adult needs a venting out, more so for a child. A child’s healing can never happen in isolation. But, only with a helping hand, body and soul of a parent.

7. Don’t trivialize and laugh out. It is a matter of life and death for the child that s/he is in a rage. Belittling and playing down his/her emotions is only going to make the hurt ingrained further.

8. Don’t remind the child of the previous temper tantrums. This will be adding fuel to the fire.

9. Don’t show and give examples of other children. How would an aggrieved adult feel when given an example of an irrelevant another adult? It is a foot in the mouth, with the additional negative of damaging the self-image of the child.

10. Don’t hit the child. A non-negotiable.

The simple way of arriving at all the don’ts is to think of what an adult would not want to be done to herself/himself when mad with anger. One cannot do with a child, what one does not want to be done to one’s self.

So, what to do with a furious and rampant child? I have only one suggestion.

Hug the child. Keep hugging the child till the moment passes through. Keep comforting the child. That’s it. Basis self-experience, this is the only mechanism I have to deal with temper tantrums of my twin daughters.

To be honest, it is easier said than done. I just keep telling myself that whatever else I do is going to worsen the situation, so keep quiet and just hug the girl throwing up.

The objective is to help the child identify, know and manage her/his emotions better. It is essential learning for children and also, the parents in growing up together.

What would be your suggestions to deal with temper tantrums?

PS: I also try and remember the trigger of the temper tantrums to avoid the history repeating itself.

A Parent’s Guide To Deal With Temper Tantrums

Parenting is bliss and fulfilment. Parenting is joy and happiness. It is, of course, much more than what words can describe. Along with all these, parenting is also frustration and anguish. Parenting is misery and distress. You do not believe me? Ask a parent who has just endured temper tantrums.

Temper tantrums come in all shapes and sizes. It can strike at any time and any place. A child is at the best behaviour possible, you are marvelling at your parenting skills, everything is so peaceful and serene, and suddenly, out of nowhere, the lightning, I mean the temper tantrum, strikes. The effects leave the parent’s world turned upside down for the foreseeable future of half an hour.

After all, what is this temper tantrum of a child? Why does this have to happen? How to deal with it? Is there an easy way out? I qualify as being a stay-at-home father to twin daughters. Basis of my fair share of the goodies, below are my views on the subject.

Temper tantrums as fait accompli

First and foremost, a parent has to admit and accept that the temper tantrums are bound to happen. It is a part and parcel of the child’s growing up process. No childhood, and hence no parenting will ever be complete without the temper tantrums. Being in denial about its existence will only lead to poor preparations to deal with it. Better to admit and train yourself for the inevitable.

Secondly, temper tantrums are not a statement about a parent or the child. The meltdown is a part of the growing up process of the child and the parent, too. An occurrence that helps to build on the emotional capabilities of the child and the parent cannot be looked down upon. Of course, it is not an event to look forward to; but an event, once it happens, to be taken learning from and move on.

Once the parent has accepted the temper tantrums as a predestined and a non-judgemental affair, it will be a tad easier to deal with it. We can focus our energies on dealing with the issue and not refute that the sun rises in the east.

Prevention is better than cure

We might feel that the temper tantrums of the kid have reared out of nowhere, for no reasons. However, there will always be an underlying cause. There will always be a trigger. There will be ominous signs of the storm. The crux is to identify these warning signals and address them before they turn into a full-fledged eruption.

A. Keep the child well-fed and well-rested. Ideally, the kid should say when s/he is hungry/thirsty/tired. But, the child, many times, will not know his/her physical state. A parent has to keep a tab on the time and quantity of the earlier meal/snacks/nap to ensure that at least for these avoidable reasons, nobody loses peace of mind.

Our daughters love to play these 5 ageless games. They can go on and on playing them, without a sense of time. We would also love to let them keep playing. However, basis past experiences, we have realized the optimal time for them to play physical games and then, to take rest. Same goes for food and water.

B. Have a time-table, avoid surprises and give advance intimation of the changes to the schedule. Even an adult has a limit to what s/he can process, absorb and execute. Here, we have kids who have just started on their exploration and learning journey. The more the predictable, the more the usual set of events will not stretch their cognitive capabilities. It will lead them to remain more in control of the narrative and not be yanked out of their comfort zone.

Having a time-table is doing activities within a broad time-limit of an hour, and not with clock-work precision. Avoiding surprises is about not to make them leave the activities, they are occupied with. Giving advance intimation is about respecting a child as an individual, let her/him have a view on the proposed change to the schedule and make the child feel a part of the decision-making process.

It is fine if I am not going to buy yoghurt for my daughters every time we visit a supermarket, as long as I tell them before leaving home. It is fine if they are not going to be bought new toys, as long as they are told, beforehand, that they already have toys to play with.

C. Let the children decide and take ownership within pre-defined boundaries. The children cannot be expected to follow instructions all the time. Period. So, what do we do? Let them choose the mode of transport, route and speed, as long as the destination does not change.

My daughters decide on the colour of the cup in which to drink milk. It makes them feel empowered to choose between white and brown cups and I am at peace that they drink milk daily. One temper tantrum root-cause addressed.

D. Communicate with the children. This is often the most under-estimated aspect of parenting. We might feel that what these young kids will understand. Believe me; they understand a lot, much more than what we think that they understand.

My daughters used to create a ruckus about having medicines. It was a pain for my wife before I became a stay-at-home father. I explained to them about the need for medicines. I do not know what was the trick, my explanation or my luck. Till this date, they take all their medications without a whimper.

Ok, fine. I have tried to prevent temper tantrums as much as possible. But, as said earlier, they are bound to happen. So, how to deal with them? Here we go.

Why Lockdown For Children Below The Age Of 10 Years Continues

India’s coronavirus lockdown has had many relaxations. Currently, in the Unlock 1.0, exemptions far outnumber the activities not allowed. The Indian Government has come up with several options to restore “normalcy”. However, all the Government orders, Central and State, are unanimous in one aspect:  The lockdown for children below the age of 10 years continues, i.e. they will stay at home.

Coronavirus is particularly lethal for the elderly. Hence, the Government advisory that persons above 65 years of age shall stay at home is logical and understandable. However, how and why the children below the age of 10 years are getting lumped together with the elderly. What is the rationale for the children to remain confined indoors?

I wrote why children parks remain shut in coronavirus lockdown when they should be the first ones to resume. As I thought more, I realized that it is not just about the parks. The issues and reasons are far more deeply entrenched, systemically and psychologically, that the Government keeps advising children below the age of 10 years to remain indoors without hardly any opposition to this hare-brained suggestion.

Infrastructure for children below the age of 10 years

Have you ever been to a public park with a children play area? Did you notice the size of the play area? Or, the number of slides, swings, see-saws, monkey bars, jungle gyms? I will tell you. We, my five-year-old twin daughters and myself, are frequent visitors to public parks. Children play area will have 2-4 slides, 2-4 swings, 1-2 see-saws, 1 monkey bar and 1 jungle gym irrespective of the catchment. These numbers are on the higher side, with a majority of them broken and non-functional.

Have you ever been to a Government Anganwadi in a city? Did you notice the size of the room and the number of children crammed into it? The same goes for Government schools. Poorly ventilated tiny rooms, dimly-lit or worse with no electricity, the unwanted saving grace being full attendance only at the time of meals; else minimal children.

Even the private schools, except for the top 10%, are plagued with limited space being jostled by a far higher number of children. This issue of apparatus not able to cope with the number of users, children, is chronically present in all the fields – zoo, museum, play-grounds etc.

Manpower for children below the age of 10 years

Children below the age of 10 years require supervision and monitoring. This requires trained and motivated manpower to be present all the time a facility is open for children. This is conspicuous by its absence in India, the numbers as well as the quality, in public as well as a private domain.

There are, of course, teachers, support staff, resource persons etc truly interested in the well-being of children. However, they are few and far in between. The institutional bandwidth devoted to their training and happiness is fairly limited and barely invested in.

Simply put, the manpower required to implement the coronavirus do’s and don’ts in public places for children below the age of 10 years is not present in India.

Mindset for children below the age of 10 years

The malaise runs far deeper. The infrastructure and the manpower can only be the manifestations. The driving factor is that children below the age of 10 years lack the consideration and attention they deserve.

For us adults, a child is seen only from the lens of school-induced existence. Rote learning and crammed lessons get accepted as education in our society. A carefree and playful childhood gets swapped with rat-race for grades and marks.

We cannot foresee children having fun and being themselves. A child has the right to be outdoors with nature is a completely neglected notion. An idea of learning for children when they interact with each other in a non-formal natural environment bereft of instructions does not appeal.

The underlying mindset: What is there to invest in children apart from preparing them for JEE/NEET?

 Summing Up

During regular times, the creaking infrastructure make did with jam-packed children. The manpower managed the show with middling results. Now, suddenly the coronavirus has laid threadbare the limitations of the Indian set-up.

India is not designed and prepared to keep the children safe and happy. The Government knows this, so the lockdown for children below the age of 10 years. The parents also know this, so no opposition to the Government.

Anyways, the coronavirus is not going to change our mindset. The Government is busy preparing for JEE/NEET. The Cabinet Minister for HRD and the private schools are busy with online education charade. Who cares if children below the age of 10 years cannot play outside? They were not supposed to, in the first place, in the Indian scenario.

#UnlockChildren.

Existential Questions Asked By Children In The Times Of Coronavirus

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.