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Has the pandemic given birth to a generation of introverts?

It is very interesting to see the children of today assimilate this information in different ways. Research points to how a large population of children around the world has been adversely affected in their social skills



By Jyotika Aggarwal

Published: Thu 20 Jan 2022, 11:51 PM

Last updated: Thu 20 Jan 2022, 11:52 PM

A friend and I were going to the supermarket a few weeks ago. As we entered, the friend’s five-year-old daughter clung to her and refused to go in. She asked if we were even allowed to enter, since there were more people there, and just the vision of a crowd made the child uncomfortable and stressed.

I have heard multiple such stories of young children trying to comprehend the social boundaries after the pandemic. Generation Y, Z, and the ones before have lived considerable part of their lives outside the pandemic, hence manoeuvring our social connects in and after the pandemic has probably been a more manageable experience.

It is very interesting to see the children of today assimilate this information in different ways. Research points to how a large population of children around the world has been adversely affected in their social skills, wellbeing and health by “staying at home”, “schooling from home” and inability to provide adequate physical development opportunities, as a consequence of the pandemic.

A rise in social anxiety within children of young ages has been seen. Crowds or even just getting back to school in 2022 is stressful for children. The lockdown led to a reduction in the need to forge bonds among individuals of same age, leading to more introverted individuals. When there is a learned discomfort surrounding the concept of crowds, people and external environment, it is only natural that an individual will be shaped by these factors. When this happens during the formative years, it becomes a default setting within. Their need and depth of relationships, social connections and empathy is negatively impacted. Instead a more regressed, self-centric part of the personality may emerge.

Due to online learning, educational achievement has also taken a hit. Young children have found it harder to adapt to online learning, hence grasping the curriculum has been tougher. With a possible gap in their basic education, children may dislike academics even more.

From an emotional aspect, especially younger children aged between three and five, who don’t have the vocabulary to express nor understand their own emotions, are polarising between volatile bouts of being aggressive and brooding. The general sense of panic in the family members is internalised by children, who, in turn, start feeling scared without understanding why and act out! In families, where the pandemic has added financial burden, the young ones have been witnessing stress, arguments and other unhealthy familial interactions. This may have been a reason for outbursts of anger, irritability and even crying and sadness.

One of the biggest problems of excessive screen time, unfortunately, became a necessary evil. Using the screen for education, leisure and connection has given screen addiction a whole new meaning. While this has helped us get through the pandemic, the need for constant visual stimulation has reduced focus and attention spans of the generation.

While there have been a number of negative implications, some positive outcomes have added a silver lining to this dark cloud. Children of this generation have learned the importance of self-reliance and self-soothing. They have had the time to realise their own preferences rather than trying to mould with the herd. Many have developed skills and strengths which they may not have had the chance to otherwise. Being at home has pushed creativity to a different level. Resilience is another integral value which all the children in this “pandemic-age” have learnt and imbibed.

A number of experts talk about how the negative impact can never be undone, but I believe with time, these negative impacts can be reversed. Parents and other family members can help by normalising the idea of meeting people, healthy physical touch and a non-pandemic environment.

Social anxiety can be dealt with by explaining, without exaggerating the need for social distancing and pandemic guidelines, yet slowly desensitising your child to groups of people in a safe and healthy manner. Talking through your child’s doubts and unhealthy adaptations will largely protect them from dogmatically internalising pandemic-driven emotional and social norms. A child psychologist can be a great support in such situations as well.

wknd@khaleejtimes.com


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