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How Kids And Parents Can Thrive, Not Just Survive, During The COVID-19 Pandemic

More from Namita Mehta

The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger, but recognize the opportunity.” John F. Kennedy’s words seem more ironic than ever today. As we are in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic crisis, countries everywhere are stepping up to decipher how Mother Nature’s imposed quarantine is forcing us to stop and smell the roses.

NAGAON,INDIA-MARCH 22,2020: A Doctor use thermal screening devices on youth who return from Kerela state in the wake of deadly coronavirus at Civil Hospital in Nagaon district of Assam,India – PHOTOGRAPH BY Anuwar Ali Hazarika / Barcroft Studios / Future Publishing (Photo credit should read Anuwar Ali Hazarika/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), school closures in over a dozen countries due to the COVID-19 outbreak have disrupted the education of at least 849.5 million students worldwide. As schools, offices and entertainment centres down their shutters everywhere, parents, students, and families are figuring out how to navigate this enforced ‘downtime’.

For many parents, the immediate concern is how to keep productivity high for themselves and their children. Tension is high as everyone is stepping on each other’s toes and future plans are in flux. Whether you reside in a country where there is a complete lockdown, or your travel plans have been cancelled or you are simply watching the news with uncertainty about what’s next, a positive course of action will greatly alleviate your stress. What can you do? A lot, it seems.

  • Engage with your children and family at large: Often, children are left confused and upset in the wake of a crisis. As their primary caregivers, parents must educate them on the virus, the ripple effects and emergency precautions. Being completely candid will go a long way in easing tensions. Moreover, children will be more cooperative when they know what is happening. Discussing updates in the news as a family and sharing age-appropriate articles with them is a good way to keep them updated.
Parents are working and their children are learning online simultaneously. Representational image.
  • Help children become responsible and accountable: Sitting at home may sometimes lead to complacency and procrastination. Planning time effectively between work and leisure will ensure productivity. An article in the NY Times quoted Dr. Michael Rich, director of the Center on Media and Child Health at Harvard Medical School, who said, Its important kids don’t see this as an indefinite snow day.” Parents are working and their children are learning online simultaneously. As this is new for many, set aside ‘work time’ and ‘downtime’ and discuss the schedules with your children so they are aware of the hours ahead. Think of innovative things to do in the ‘downtime’. From writing letters to relatives abroad, watching an educational documentary or playing a board game, when children have something to look forward to, they will become more productive in the ‘work hours’.
  • Create an efficient engine at home: Designate and/or set up a place for your child to work. Sometimes, a rotating workstation is a good idea. You can switch work desks with your children every other day, set up a desk in your living room or another area in your home to keep them more engaged. Try the fantastic Pomodoro Technique for time management! Plan ways in which your child can exercise and/or get some physical activity. If sports activities are not an option, online workout videos like PopSugar and GoNoodle are great resources.

    As this is new for many, set aside ‘work time’ and ‘downtime’ and discuss the schedules with your children so they are aware of the hours ahead. Representational image.
  • Boost academic performance: The focused and extra time students have right now can be greatly leveraged to revisit topics and reach out to teachers for clarification. Exam preparation can start early and all assignments can be completed till date. Extra research in areas of interest and language practice can go a long way. Just yesterday, a discussion on changing weather patterns at home led to a family research project as we explained how the Earth’s tilt and exposure to the sun causes different weather patterns.
  • Build your extracurricularsWhile students are used to going to classes or extracurricular programs that are face to face, many local companies such as Curiosity Gym in Mumbai are also offering online classes. Keep checking your email to be engaged. You can also use this time to work on and complete existing projects like subject IR’s, CAS reports, and artworks from home.
  • Work on college applications: Grade 12 students should continue to focus on school and concentrate on doing well in the upcoming board examinations. For those who have received acceptances or are waiting to do so, check for communication from the colleges either on their website or email. In light of the current situation, several universities are waiving the need for SAT’s and other standardised tests so grade 11 students should check with their shortlisted universities directly by sending them an email. Alternatively, keep a tab on the College Board website for new test dates. Until further notice, it may be safe to assume that 2021 application processes will proceed as normal. However, it may be wise to simultaneously explore other options such as international offerings by top Indian universities.

    In light of the current situation, several universities are waiving the need for SAT’s and other standardised tests so grade 11 students should check with their shortlisted universities directly by sending them an email.
  • Embrace the digital revolution: If you are a student whose school has shifted to teaching online, embrace this. While you are so used to going to a classroom and being taught in person, online education is the future. In fact, several reports are already showing the increased productivity and efficiency of such schooling methods. Kavita Mehta, the founder of online learning aggregator platform Lore, has written an insightful article on the future of digital education here. Whether it is improving those graphic designing skills, learning more about excel or simply improving on a language, use this time to delve into online courses. Some online learning platforms to explore are UpskillCourseraUdemySkillshare and LoreDolly Parton’s Imagination Library and Khan Academy also offer some free services.

    Many local companies such as Curiosity Gym in Mumbai are also offering online classes. Representational image.
  • Read: We all have endless reading lists that we have not had the chance to get to. This is a perfect opportunity to order the books on your Kindle or scourge through your home library and catch up on your reading. “The most important thing you can do with your kids at home is read, read, read. Turn off the screens,” said Lisa Cavora, director of Great River Learning. “This is a time to play board games, card games. Just create a routine.”

The greatest innovations have been made at the time of the utmost crisis. As the fourth industrial revolution hits us in the form of Education 4.0, educational companies and governments are acting swiftly to imagine, implement and embrace learning methodologies of the future. As Winston Churchill said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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