COVID-19: The price of loss of kindergarten years for kids

Parents, psychologist fear lack of early-school experience due to the COVID-19 pandemic may hamper development of children

Parents of five-year-old Maidhili Krishna have been at pains explaining to her why she canโ€™t dance or sing before an audience like her elder sister Meenakshi did a couple of years ago.

The pandemic, which stripped her of the fun-filled lower kindergarten (LKG) year and reduced it to online sessions, now threatens to consume the upper kindergarten days as well, leaving her father Krishnakumar Menon worried about what it means for his little daughter emotionally.

โ€œWe are trying to make up for her loss by creating a school-like atmosphere at home though itโ€™s a very pale compensation. Missing out on the exposure and the foundations that helped her elder sister is indeed a big loss for her,โ€ he rues.

Loss of social skills

Narendar Ananda Bhat, a private company employee in the city, is similarly worried for his three-year-old daughter Tanmaya, who in normal times should have been having fun at playschool. โ€œThe gap in academics could perhaps be bridged but not the loss of interactions in a peer group,โ€ he lamented.

Shirley Somasundaram, theatre personality and principal of the KG section of Vidyodaya School, observed that the loss of social skills in formative years could pose problems later.

โ€œThere is no compensation for the loss of classroom atmosphere. No matter how effective the online sessions are, the child remains the centre of attraction in a household that pampers its ego unlike in school where it is nipped bit-by-bit as the child learns to be part of a group. It will be teachers in higher classes who will find it really tough to manage these children deprived of crucial foundational skills. We will have to design modules for them over and above the curriculum,โ€ she said.

A positive fallout

Ms. Somasundaram, however, felt that the pandemic-induced online sessions that demanded increased involvement of parents had a positive fallout of helping them realise that it was after all possible to find time for their children.

V. Sudarshana Manoj, a counselling psychologist, feels that the gaps in formative years could hamper physical and mental development, besides social skills. โ€œSince they are cut off from the larger society and their interactions are restricted to their immediate family, these children could later develop a social phobia and even panic attacks in social interactions. They may also suffer from personality disorders like anger management issues and lack of confidence and turn out to be extremely shy and introverted. Creating a congenial home atmosphere, breaking the islands in which parents and children find themselves in despite being together at home, remains the only feasible alternative,โ€ she says.


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