No one would have imagined in their wildest dreams that a virus will be capable of bringing the world to a stand-still. But here we are, living and experiencing the event first hand. This event has wrecked havoc on everyone irrespective of their age, gender, class, religion, race. When adults are having a hard time adjusting to the new normal, it won’t be extreme to say that children must be grappling to make sense of this event.
Children are facing major life disruptions with the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). School closures and physical distancing must be difficult and a lot to take in. It’s important that families support children to make the most of this new (temporary) normal and make efforts to optimise their mental health in these trying times. A few of such steps can be :
Encourage Expression: Each child processes information in different ways and has a different way of expressing himself/herself. Children should be provided with a positive and supporting environment to express their feelings and doubts. It is crucial to have an age-appropriate open discussion with them. It will ease their anxiety. Creative activities such as painting, drawing, sketching can be used to facilitate the process.
Validate their Feelings: Normalise and validate the feelings of anxiety and sadness if your child is experiencing them. Tell them that its normal to feel that way in stressful situations. These feelings are going to help you make right decisions such as following precautions like washing hands and maintaining social distancing. Help them to find positive distractions to deal with chronic feelings of anxiety and distress.
Create sensitive and caring home environment: Children need adults’ love and more dedicated attention during difficult times. It is important to understand that during a crisis, children may become more demanding and may seek more attachment. In case the primary caregiver and the child are separated due to the COVID-19 quarantine regime, it is essential to find alternate ways to maintain regular contact between them. Telephone, video calls, and daily follow up with the child should be ensured.
Maintain routine: While maintaining and continuing the familiar routine might not be feasible anymore, do create a structure in your child’s life. Ensure that a plan is in place for how time will be spent in the day. This includes schedule for playtime, innovative learning activities, screen-time and social media exposure (in case of older children). Older children should be asked to come up with their own routine to give them a sense of freedom and responsibility. This can obviously be worked around.
Manage own behaviour: Parents should manage their own anxiety and stress levels. Children often take cues from their parents and respond accordingly. Make sure that the outlet of your anxiety is not your child.
Share reliable information: Parents should have a calm and proactive discussion with their children about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Address their concerns. Provide them with facts and clear child-friendly information about how to reduce risk of infection and stay safe, in words they can understand. Avoid speculating about rumours or unverified information in front of them.
Cherish the extra time that you are getting to spend with your children and focus on creating more happy, unforgettable memories. It’s okay if you don’t feel positive all the time, this can be a work in progress and everyone can go through this together.