Adults must be watchful for signs of anxiety

This is the third Children’s Day amid the coronavirus pandemic. Activities in schools and elsewhere have long been restricted. It is necessary to restore ordinary daily life for children, while paying close attention to their physical and mental health.

Special measures have not been implemented against the coronavirus during this year’s Golden Week, such as the declaration of a state of emergency, and voluntary restrictions on people going out have not been sought.

For the first time in a while, many children are enjoying going to tourist spots or visiting relatives with a feeling of freedom.

There is a growing movement in many parts of the country to restore school life to the way it was before the coronavirus outbreak, while taking measures to prevent infection. Some prefectures are holding athletic meets, school excursions and other events almost as usual. More and more regions are also easing restrictions on school club activities.

Children mature not only through studying, but also by interacting with adults and friends around them through various events and activities. It is important to devise ways to increase the opportunities for such activities.

More than two years of self-restraint in their daily lives has had manifold effects on children. Many children are under stress.

According to a survey by the National Center for Child Health and Development (NCCHD) in December, 9% of fifth and sixth graders at elementary schools and 13% of junior high school students had at least moderate symptoms of depression. Downheartedness, apathy and lack of appetite were conspicuous.

Asked what they would do if they felt low in spirits, 25% of fifth and sixth graders at elementary schools and 35% of junior high school students said they would wait it out alone, without talking to anyone else.

The survey highlighted the reality that children often cannot tell other people about their situation even when they are in a state of depression. There may be many children who do not want their parents to worry about their symptoms or who cannot effectively put their state of mind into words. People around children need to be aware of unusual signs and extend them a helping hand.

Stress may be the cause of restlessness, headaches, stomachaches and other symptoms. Depending on the circumstances, it is advisable to consider visiting a medical institution.

It is also effective for adults to think together with children about how to deal with stress. The NCCHD has put on its website 23 examples that children themselves came up with to soothe their feelings. This could serve as a reference.

Various measures are presented on the website, such as holding a favorite stuffed toy (suggested by a first-grade boy), writing a diary (fourth-grade boy), reading a book (fifth-grade boy) and writing unpleasant things down on paper (third-year high school girl).

It is vital for adults, too, to take advantage of the Golden Week holidays to soothe their hearts. If they interact with children in a relaxed way, they can likely reduce the stress children are feeling.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 5, 2022)