Games, social service and family bonding: How lockdown has changed life for parents and kids in Theni

Citizens have paused their frenetic daily lives owing to the nationwide lockdown. This has created a new reality for parents and kids, as this town shows.

Parents resorting to healthy parenting skills through Google. Youngsters who otherwise spend their time roaming the serene streets of Theni Corporation engaged in social service, visiting senior citizens in the locality and buying them essential commodities. Children aged three years teaching grandparents how to use mobile phones and citizens playing traditional games indoors. The lockdown imposed to arrest the spread of the deadly coronavirus outbreak has changed the entire lifestyle of residents in the Southern city of Tamil Nadu.

This is the time when children usually take up intensive summer classes in subjects such as Computers, Spoken English and Abacus etc. However, there is little focus on teaching life skills and values to these children. “Children from kindergarten to higher secondary classes are so busy with their schools and tuitions in normal times that they hardly learn any life skills,” says Easwari J, a parent. 

Like many parents, Easwari is sending her two children, aged 13 and 11, to check on the old people in the locality. Guarding themselves with gloves and masks, the two children buy groceries and medicines for the senior citizens. “We get herbal water from the common service centre and distribute it to the old people,” says the child Jegan. 

Easwari says such acts help children experience the love of elder people and develop important emotional skills such as empathy and warmth. 

When parents become learners

Parents are also closely following the instructions of psychologists on social media platforms such as YouTube and Whatsapp. They are using the quarantine time to develop stronger emotional bonding with their children. Earlier, parents had the time only to take care of the basic responsibilities such as feeding and cooking for them. Now, it is different, as they are looking at areas the children lack development in and trying to work on it together.

Manjula P, a mother says that her teenage daughter has gradually started showing interest in household chores such as cleaning, drawing Rangoli and folding clothes, unlike earlier when she was not involved at all. 

To answer the questions from curious children, parents themselves are putting additional effort into reading books!  A father, Muthuraja said that his son asks questions about a lot of subjects these days, starting from coronavirus to the functioning of electronic appliances. “Some questions are tough and I have to learn about it to answer him. There were instances when he asked the funniest of questions, bringing laughter to the family,” said Muthuraja. 

Inculcating good habits

Having understood the necessity of social distancing, organisations are also thinking of creative ways to engage people. For example, a trust called Development of Women and Children Trust (DWCT) have taught mantras to children through Whatsapp and encouraged them to recite it every evening. “Every day at 6 pm, children and elders recite the mantra. It is such a positive feeling to know that children aged 3 years could recite the mantra. This shows their ability to grasp things these were the children that were glued to television and mobile sets before,” said Dr M Parameswari, secretary of DWCT.

The trust has also been teaching children about the importance of washing hands in the proper way, and other creative activities such as storytelling, writing, handicrafts, music and dance etc. 

Many children have taken to reading newspapers and books. It has brought back to life the forgotten indoor games such as Pallanguli, Paramapadham, Thayam and Vidukadhai. “This is the time to observe the collective behavioural skills and cognitive thinking skills of a child and correct the lapses,” said Revathy Swaminathan, a parent. 

There are many such stories emerging from every street of Theni: A child imitating movie dialogues and thus entertaining the family, Tamil teacher Rajammal teaching Thirukkural to the students by maintaining social distancing and most important of all, children requesting their grandparents to tell them bedtime stories, unlike a month ago when they had not discovered the magic of human connection and family bonding.

If one looks for a silver lining in these gloomy times, it would surely be this.

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