Schools are closed, friends are not around, you cannot open your gate and run like you used to do during vacation, I wonder what would a child be doing in this phase of pandemics?
COVID 19 has shaken our ‘taken for granted’ attitude about life and has created the scariest pandemic of our generation has ever seen. This has led to the pervasive uncertainty about anything we used to be certain about just a couple of months back; our work routine, our health, schools and universities . We adults are so much wrapped around our anxiety that we might have forgotten about our children and their mental state.
Coronavirus has not spared people of any age group although the degree of vulnerability of getting infected of the virus varies across people of different age groups. All of us are talking about the death rate of COVID 19 but its mental toll has been largely unknown or shadowed. Children are as much as vulnerable as anybody of the trauma of this pandemic. So the need of taking special care of them during this phase of locked down is essential, if not this will lead to more vulnerability in days to come. They are the least informed group about any traumatic event or crisis and are very much limited in their ability to communicate in what they feel. So, how the information are fed to them, what kind of activities they are involved in will greatly impact their mental well-being today and in the long run.
Here in this article, I am putting forth the effective ways of communicating with child and some techniques to keep them engaged in this locked down phase as a counselor.
How a child reacts to COVID 19 may depend on various factors, including a) age b) level of their brain development and language/comprehension ability c)presence and severity of mental health issue, if any, d) recent stressors or major life events. Since each child is unique, so each parent’s response should be tailored depending on the situation and contextual need.
COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR CHILD DURING THIS PANDEMIC
- Be accurate and honest in your response to the child’s query:
Children are very inquisitive in their nature. So don’t get irritated if you are pelted with unending questions related to this coronavirus. In such a situation you might want to pacify your child by making up some phony answers. If you don’t know the answer to the question says so. Be honest but do not give false information to shut up your child. You can tell your child that you will get back to him/her later if you don’t know something. Building trust with your child should be based on the foundation of honesty.
2. Communicate the necessary safety message and justify your message properly:
We have interesting tendency in Nepal to communicate the safely message but not justify it properly, leading child in dilemma and may be making them do the opposite. So, when you are taking about Social Distancing as the only safety measure during COVID 19, make sure you communicate what does it mean. Make sure you justify why it is needed.
3. Listen to them, actively and appropriately:
Listen to your child’s feelings, worries, fears and queries about coronavirus. They might have received information from various sources and that might lead to more query and more worry and uncertainty. Ask them whatever you want to ask but in a non-judgemental and empathetic way. Make sure you show your child that you are really interested to listen and hear their feelings. Don’t be reactive or don’t shut them up whenever they are giving you any information. Listen to that appropriately and then only correct it if needed. Make sure you justify your correction with facts. If you do so, next time your child will find you very appropriate to express their feelings and fears to you; it not only builds comfort in between your relationship with child, it will build the trust towards you as well.
4. Be Calm when you speak to child about Corona Virus/COVID 19:
Maintaining normalcy can be difficult for yourself during this pandemic but remind you, your child is very good at picking your emotions and feelings. So, make sure you communicate the information calmly, this will give them the impact about the situation as less panicking and of less worry than actually what they have imagined. Your way of dealing situation and communicating it can directly impact your child’s way of understanding the intensity of the situation. So, I am sure you don’t want to send the story of panic and fear to your child, so make sure you monitor your thoughts, feelings and behavior whenever you are communicating about the pandemic during this pandemic.
5. Make sure to ACKNOWLEDGE your child’s feeling:
Some of the times we tend to dismiss, invalidate and reject the feeling automatically though we don’t mean to. Make sure you acknowledge and validate your child’s feeling. After all, fear, worry, disinterest, irritation is the normal reaction to the abnormal situation; we as a parents are feeling than why don’t have your child right to feel it. So, acknowledge it while communicating it; it doesn’t have to mean you verify it or agree with their fears, it simply means you understand their feeling and way of dealing with this not-normal state of pandemic. This way your child will feel understood, making it easier for you to communicate the proper and authentic information to them.
For example, your child might know the deaths rates, numbers of deaths and might be very scared of the situation. In this instance, if your child seems scared about this fact or ask specific questions, do not avoid those: rather ask they how did they get information from, how did they feel about it and then explain the fact to your child in the proper way for their age and developmental level. Let your child know that you know the proper fact, let them know-the do’s and don’ts of novel corona and explain things in the simplest manner.
ONE THING, we as a parent, should realize is the age-appropriate communication whenever we are communicating with them. The way you communicate with your early schooler will be different from the way you communicate with you upper of high schooler. But for all, the key is, making them express their thoughts and feelings and you using certain techniques to communicate and listen!
ENGAGING YOUR CHILD DURING THIS PANDEMIC
One of the bright sides is that this is anyway holiday (kinda) season to each school going child in Nepal so they will be fine staying at home and being engaged in whatever they used to love and be engaged in during other holidays. But down side is, they cannot play outside or have much physical contact with outer world making them bored easily and making it difficult for parents to make them be involved or engaged for long time. So, few tips can do magic if you are looking for to engage your child during this pandemic
- Establish a routine
Having certainty in the form of routine can help child in this uncertain phase. Routine not necessarily have to be hourly based education routine, it can be anything, from movie time or flowering time, from ludo time to game time, from oil-massaging time or an-ta-chhari time; make sure you understand what your child loves to do, list them out and make a time each day to follow them during this home-bound days. Sometimes, making familiar routine during the time of stress leaves you’re the chain of uncertainty during this crisis period.
- Engage them to enhance their hobby
In the fast pace life, most of times child becomes busy with their routine of schools and homeworks, so parents can take this locked down days as opportunity for your child to embrace newer hobbies and interests. Also try to be part of their engagement as well.
- Engage them in your chores as well
Parents most of the time complains about child not being able to be independent to do their chores by themselves, so again, this can be an opportunity for you to teach child anything you would like them to teach. You can engage them in your daily chores as well, like cooking, watering, gardening, washing, cleaning; this will not only help them learn some necessary life skills but also builds the relationship between parents and child.
- But, Don’t latch them with Gadgets
It’s every easier these days to keep them engaged during such time with the help of gadgets, but make sure you as parents be selective of what they watch and how much they use them. Having gadget and interest can be interesting to the child but can be addictive at the same time.
- Practice Self Care and Learning Habit
There is no age to begin the self-care and good learning habit so as a parent you can help them start doing so. A simple 30 minutes exercise can be a good thing, teaching them the meditation and breathing exercise can be doable, like wise you can download audio stories to your child (remind you, various good websites like amazon have made child stories free to download in this crisis) and let them hear. Likewise, if you have child who might be interested in online learning, there are various free online learning tools. Some hardwork to search those files for your child won’t hurt. This way they can be engaged in this time of crisis at the same time can be learning a new skill or new learning by the end of this certainty.
- Teach them empathy and compassion
Most importantly, teach your child about compassion, values and humanity this time. Be with them, Listen to them, Make them feel Understood and try to do activities together. You never know whenever you are getting this opportunity again so value this time and use it appropriately. Make sure you do everything to enhance their mental well-being, because it really matters! And, don’t forget to understand this shall pass and normal routine will be back soon. Till then, take care of mental well-being of yourself and your child, together!
If your child is feeling very anxious; listening to them, engaging in the hobbies don’t work out: you can always seek help of the professionals. There are various ways of getting free online counseling these days, do take help.
And this article is not for child whose parents are living away from them, may be in hospital or quarantine or isolation; they should be taken proper care in other ways awell. Reach out for help if you need to. WE LISTEN! LET’s WORK TOGETH0ER FOR THE METAL WELLBEING IN THIS CRISIS.