It’s highly unlikely that any of us has ever faced a situation like the one we’re facing today. However, it is essential to understand that we can get through this! It is easy to feel insecure virtually everywhere such as some countries imposing curfews; schools closed, parents losing jobs, or working from home, children being homeschooled, relative or grandparents getting the virus or dying etc. Even the places that used to be safe such as parks, shopping centres, coffee shops are not safe anymore! A trip to the supermarket now feels like a stroll through a dark alley at midnight. All these have had effects on parents’ attitudes and behaviours with fears and panics. These will also have great impacts on children’s emotions, physical and social aspects parents may not be aware. Children will quickly pick on the insecurities and fears of their parents. Our concerns may be real, but how we stay positive, handle whatever effects on our life and keep these roadblocks from affecting our behaviour will, in turn, influence our kids. Studies have shown that children can carry the effects of traumatic events for years, and this will, more than likely, affect their emotional wellbeing even into their adult years.
We are all well aware that children are like little sponges who soak up everything they see. During this crisis, we certainly don’t want them soaking up our own sense of fear and panic. They obviously know something is going on because they’re only allowed to visit grandparents, cousins, friends, and relatives on the mobile or computer, and handwashing has become the family’s new competitive sport! It’s time to turn our eyes and support to these feelings of the children and help them to understand the situation that everyone is facing now. The trauma can be formed by this time in your children (They feel very real at early ages age). Youngsters may be much more aware and sensitive than we think of what’s going on around them and incorporate these experiences and feelings much more than we may be aware of. Do not let that discourage you though, children are more resilient than you would like to believe, and with your right guidance, they can weather the storm and feel safe and secure and together with the parents to move through the challenging time. If you know how to maintain your home as a safe harbour including being a role model for your children when it comes to how you react to news stories and events, then you will make them feel secure with themselves. If you start putting in one-on-one time with your children, it can add a sense of harmony to the household, and then you make them feel loved and comfortable in their surroundings. If parents are behaving calmly and securely, then your children will follow suit.
Here are 7 ideas you can use to ease your child’s concerns and help them process any emotional, physical and social traumas they may be having due to the current Coronavirus events.
1. Keep calm and stay strong
Instead of feeling fear, panic, keep calm and stay strong with whatever comes. Fear and panic never help in any situation! This is important because panic clouds your thinking process and is just as contagious as the coronavirus. Children can pick up on this and mimic the behaviour, creating unneeded emotional turbulence, and they may give you more stress. Keep informed about what is going on but choose your sources well. Get your news from reputable news sources with a certain time during a day, not from tabloid sources, or twitter or Facebook panic mongers. Stay informed, but don’t obsess. Turn off the news or radios and let your children watch educational programs from television or laptop for a while. You will enjoy your break, too! Your children will take all of your positive attitudes when you handle panics and fears as theirs.
“Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems.” Gever Tulley
2. Find out what they think, they know
You’ve been following the news, reports of course, but little ears have also been listening, and the little hearts start developing feelings. They may not understand exactly what is being said but feel from the ways people address the news, the ways you react to the stories, reports. Your teenager may be judging the severity of the outbreak on how many rock stars have cancelled their current tours, while your younger kids may have heard a reporter use the term “plague” and are now thinking in terms of the black death. Calmly explain to each of them, at their own level, just what is happening and why. Explain to them that they are at low risk. That while they may catch the virus, it is not likely that they will become very ill, but they can be carriers. Older children may understand the need for extreme precautions of shutting down schools and businesses, but younger ones will not. Tell them just enough to explain why they can’t have playdates with their friends without making them believe that life as they know it is over. Emphasize the fact that it will all be over eventually, and life will go back to normal.
All the explanations from the parents are important because understanding helps eliminate fears and anxieties in children.
3. Make things as comfortable and usual as possible
Children will know that conditions are not normal. While they may have previously looked forward to school holidays or the Easter Show, picnic days, they are now finding themselves increasingly bored at home. And boredom can lead to depression and anxiety, not only for your child but for you as well. Take this opportunity to become reacquainted with your family. Pick a favourite movie and convert the family room into a theatre, with home make popcorn and drinks. Make it even more fun by encouraging audience participation. You can hook up the game console and compete, as teams or individuals. Or turn your lounge room to a safari or park with sofa, couches, cushions, blanket for young children’s physical exercise, pretending play. Also let the little ones play dress-up in Mum and Dad’s clothes, perhaps with some role reversal games as well.
You can even encourage the older siblings to read, or perhaps act at parts for the little ones. Parents can find more activities to play at home for different ages from YouTube, Google, Amazon etc.
4. Involve the family in chores
Every day can’t be a party. Keep the spirit light but add a sense of normalcy by involving the whole family in performing some needed tasks around the home. How often do you have a chance to get everybody together for the thorough cleaning of the house? Assign tasks and make each individual responsible for their own activities. It may be a good time to clean up the garage or revitalize the backyard by pulling off the weeds, growing new vegetables. When children contact with nature and soil, they will feel relax and energized.
For making the atmosphere fun, parents may even have award prizes, such as allowing them to pick the next film shown on TV tonight or encourage them to spend their certain time for any game that they love. You also may set up a reward board with all family member’s names with reward points for family’s chores. It is an excellent chance to remind, teach and show your children to have their responsibilities and know how to take care of their homes now and in the furure for their won family.
5. Educate your children
Educate them about social distancing, and why they can’t see their friends and family at the moment. Tell them that although very few people are actually sick, we must keep our distance to make sure it stays that way and make sure to wear a mask when getting outside. It’s not just about keeping themselves safe but keeping everyone safe and stop the spread of the disease. Encourage them to stay in touch online. It will help them to know that they are not the only ones under virtual house locked down. Make sure that you have sufficient supplies of hand soap and sanitizers and ensure that your kids wash their hands frequently and thoroughly. This involves soaping them up and scrubbing for at least twenty seconds, or the length of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. Praise children for their singing and let them know that it will get rid of viruses. Stop them from touching the face, eyes, and mouth, and perhaps give them a funny little prompt like, “BEEP BEEP!” or a whistler if you see them doing this. This is important because education is power, and during times of crisis and trauma, children can often feel powerless.
6. This too shall pass!
“Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.” Christopher Reeve
Emphasize that the circumstances will all pass, and things will return to normal. Explain that there are scientists and world leaders working around the clock to address this problem. Help them understand that frontline heroes like nurses and doctors are working hard to keep people healthy. Reassurance is key to helping kids understand that these changes, as awful as they may see them, are not going to last forever. Allowing kids to explore real-life heroes gives them a sense of pride in the scientific community and helps them feel more confident in the process. Through this, you will teach your children to have hope in any challenging situation.
7. Reassure them you greatly appreciate their co-operation
This may be easier said than done, however. Younger children may accept the conditions a bit more quickly than older people, but they may become more easily bored and restless. Meet their angry outbursts with honesty and concern. For example, ” I understand that you are very upset for going outside to play, but soon, when the virus is over, you can play with your friends again” Children love validation, so surely they know how much you appreciate their cooperation. It’s important for parents to let their children know that this is not a punishment but an act of love and safety. This will help reduce worrying and stress in them.
In conclusion, no matter how you look at it, there is no way you could make up for all relationships, the social interaction and friendship your children are missing in the outside world. Try to make the experience as stress-free as possible for both parents and children. The history of humankind has shown that difficulties and tough times will not last forever, but a strong and resilient person will last forever.
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”
Martin Luther King,Jr.