The Covid-19 pandemic hit countries around the world, unexpectedly and brutally. It was no different with India where it swamped the lives of millions, disrupting everything and setting a ‘new normal’ along the way. The pandemic changed the way humans live life and socialise for now and, maybe, in future as well.
Although not discussed widely, Covid-19 had psychological effects too on adults and children, besides health effects. There were a few positive outcomes too as the lockdown allowed families to stay together, longer, and spend time with each other which they otherwise rarely got to.
And, the social and psychological impact of Covid-19 was felt across the socio-economic strata of society. It was the urban rich, the middle-class and the poor who braved the virus, battled the problems even welcomed the ‘unexpected’ good things that Covid-19 brought along.
Children faced Covid-19 bravely
Perhaps the most vulnerable section of the social structure, after the elderly, children fought the Covid-19 pandemic bravely across the country. It was a completely new situation for children. A survey conducted among parents by Child Rights and You (CRY) to understand the effects of the ‘home quarantine’ in effect due to the Covid-19 lockdown in India revealed: 88 per cent of the respondents said exposure of their children to screens had increased during the lockdown; 45 per cent reported their children’s exposure to screens increased ‘to a great extent’ during the lockdown; while 43 per cent said they were constantly monitoring the child whenever he/she was ‘online’.
The timely survey highlighted important facts that helped in understanding the impact of Covid-19 crisis on children. It further went on to report ‘more agitation, a change in eating pattern and increase in the screen exposure time’ among children among other ‘changes observed’ in children during the lockdown imposed in the country.
The parent-child bond strengthened
The lockdown also provided parents an opportunity to spend quality time with their children. This uninterrupted and stress-free time positively impacted the special bond between children and parents. Experts believe the lockdown proved to be extremely useful in developing and strengthening the bond between families, especially the parent-child relationship.
“Those were the most beautiful months I spent with my daughter. There were no other commitments. It was just the two of us and we would do everything together from cooking to watching TV. We would talk continuously for hours, discussing everything under the sun. It really helped me know her better,” feels freelance writer and Mumbai-based single mother Madhu Joshi.
With all the time at hand, parents and children did assorted things like cleaning, household chores, watching movies, playing indoor games, reading together, eating together. It helped families come closer and strengthen bond with their younger ones.
Families got more closely knit
“Modern-day living in cities is very stressful and fast-paced with everything compartmentalised. Most families have both parents working, leaving little time to be spent with children.
The pandemic really changed that as parents got a chance to be with their children beyond the evenings and the weekends. Many of them realised what they were missing out on and are making amends to prioritise family time going forward,” offers Indore-based family counsellor Deepika Pradhan.
She further explainshow children played an important role in keeping families together. “Many families on the verge of falling apart survived as they could introspect and focus on nurturing relationships even as children played an important role in it.”
Migrants stayed longer with families
The lockdown affected millions of lives and the impact transcended all boundaries. However, for a few from the lower economic strata of the society, the effects of the pandemic were far more serious and everlasting.
The migrant workers who form the backbone of big cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, and Ahmedabad faced the wrath of the Covid 19 the most. Not only did they lose jobs, they got stuck in cities away from their families. They had to struggle to make ends meet with little or no savings, mounting dues and shutting down of businesses and food outlets.
In time, the government stepped up efforts to transport migrant workers back to their villages enabling them to reunite them with their worried families. Men and women who spent decades living in cities, earning a living for their families, had to retreat to their homes not knowing what the future held out for them. Most of the work force belonged to the poverty-stricken states such as Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, etc., where distress migration is a commonplace occurrence.
“I was very worried when I left Mumbai for my village in Aurangabad in Bihar. I didn’t know when and if I’ll ever be able to go back. But I also got a lot of time to spend with my children who I would otherwise only meet once a year only for a few weeks,” says Ahmed Ansari, a watchman in Mumbai. Like Ahmed most migrant labourers were forced to rush to their home towns to be reunited with their families. The lockdown helped them in spending quality time with their family and children who they used to be in touch with only over phones.
For some women, lockdown meant more violence
As India adjusted to the strict lockdown to prevent the spread of Covid-19 many women faced another kind of confinement. According to the National Commission for Women (NCW), cases of domestic violence, sexual abuse and sexual violence against women saw a sharp rise during the lockdown. The NCW received 315 complaints, only of domestic violence, in April 2020. These were received online and on a dedicated WhatsApp helpline / complaint number only and not by the commonly-used postal services owing to the lockdown restrictions. Still, the number was the highest since August 2019 as per NCW records.
Many countries around the world witnessed an increase in the number of cases of violence against women who are confined to homes with an abusive partner or husband or family member such as South Africa, China, Italy, Spain, UK, France, USA, etc. Organisations and women groups working closely on issued related to women rights, domestic violence and safety of women received complaints of abuse of women from across quarters, especially as their husbands or partners lost jobs or received salary cuts.
For this generation the Covid-19 crisis is in all probability, a once-in-a-lifetime event. It allowed people to appreciate what they have and also to learn to cherish relationships and value families. People also learned to make time for family and friends, bonding with them and realising the importance of a family unit.
When the lockdown was announced in India in March 2020 no one anticipated the period of home quarantine to be this long. So, initially, families prepared for a limited quarantine time and eventually adapted to the ‘new normal’. However, moving forward, people want to take ahead the lessons learnt too and many are consciously deciding to be happy or working towards happiness even with limited means and under difficult circumstances.
Visit Prachi`s personal blog : Mom-me (https://www.facebook.com/yourmomfriend) which gives an insight into how parents can make learning fun for their children.