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The superspreader, now in its second year, aided by its various variants has not shown any signs of slowing down. Apart from causing countless deaths, it has subjected the country’s children to an immense sense of loneliness and made them stubborn.

According to experts and parents, the loss of school and outdoor activities has had a negative impact on the mental health of Pakistan’s youth leading to an increase in their anger, intolerance, and depression. Rabia Ahmed, a housewife residing in Lahore and the mother of four, has witnessed her children’s deteriorating mental health first-hand. Talking to The Express Tribune, Rabia said that the pandemic has affected the health and routine of her children. “Their sleep schedule has become irregular, and they have gained weight,” Rabia informed.

She expressed her helplessness in responding to the questions of her children as they inquired her about schools reopening and whether they would have their exams. “Since many schools have promoted their students without conducting exams, my children have started to lose their confidence in the examination system,” said Rabia. 

“Being at home they have become increasingly mischievous which affects my temperament and leads me to scolding them for the most part of my day,” a visibly frustrated Rabia said. She added that her household is already facing financial stress and it gets increasingly annoying when her children make extraordinary demands.

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Rabia is not an anomaly. Advocate Rashida Qureshi, a children’s rights activist, says the future of children is in jeopardy because of the pandemic. “With the end of sports and leisure activities, children are getting angry and irritable,” she said. Qureshi informed The Express Tribune that the hardships that children are facing during the pandemic will result in a weaker mental and academic status. Qureshi added that parents who kept their children away from screens and the internet are now forced to give them access to electronic gadgets for online classes. According to Qureshi this is problematic as we do not use safe internet browsers, so often unethical content pops up, in the form of advertisements, for children to consume. “It is not possible for the parents to keep an eye on their children as they take hours-long classes on their phones and laptops,” she said.

Faiqa Hafeez, a child psychologist stationed at the Child Protection Bureau in Lahore, concurring with Qureshi’s view told The Express Tribune that the children growing up during the pandemic will face long term implications on their brain. “The children are likely to suffer from depression with constantly being shut at home and as scolding becomes frequent. Additionally, with parents taking out their frustration on children after bitter arguments between husband and wife, will further impact their mental health,” Hafeez informed.

What can parents do to help?

Mental health experts believe parents can reduce the negative impact on their children through an open and honest conversation about the times we are living in. As per experts, parents should further educate their children that it is okay for humans to face miserable conditions and to teach them that this is more of a social issue than an individual problem.

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