The whole world is going through a situation which is unique. The entire country is in lockdown. With the social distancing measures in place to control the spread of coronavirus, we all are spending more time with our families than ever before.
The physical symptoms of the novel coronavirus are well documented. But the mental health effects, less so. Parents have a key role in helping children understand what is going on, providing information and reassurance, limiting media overload for children, and being aware of how their own reactions might impact on children.
Parents need to recognize that even young kids overhear conversations and news reports and therefore it’s best for parents to provide rational explanations about COVID-19 and help maintain an appropriate calm. Children react to both what you say and how you say it. They pick up cues from the conversations you have with them and with others. Children are very perceptive and will model how to respond from their parents. Therefore, it’s important for parents to manage their own stressors so that they can be models for their children.
It’s a lot for a kid to process. There’s the disruption of normal activities, the sudden split from friends, and, of course, fear of the virus itself. Children may respond to stress in different ways like being more clingy, withdrawing, angry, bedwetting etc. As parents, respond to your child’s reaction in a supportive way, listen to their concerns, give them love and attention.
“Many experts point to the airplane rule ― put on your own oxygen mask before helping your children with theirs. Meeting your own needs allows you to support your kids.” Therefore, take time to process your feelings too. Parents can provide a space to the kids to express how they are feeling. Families can talk about healthy ways to express feelings and encourage each other to open up, as keeping emotions bottled up often makes matters worse.
Helping children to find ways to express themselves through creative activities can be beneficial. Art can be so powerful because it makes you escape for a little bit, it puts you in that mindfulness zone, and time passes so quickly. Engage your children in painting, coloring activity and craft activities. Coloring mandala has many therapeutic benefits. It helps in relieving fear, tension and anxiety not only in children but in adults too.
Kids need to feel seen and heard. It’s important to keep listening to how your child feels about the current situation. Validating your child’s feelings including worries, disappointments and frustrations help in healthy coping with the situation. Acknowledge that you understand how hard it is for them not seeing their friends or relatives or how disappointing it is that events like birthdays and holidays have had to be cancelled.
Friendships are key to maintaining resilience for children, so help them to maintain these relationships through phone calls, online communication, and writing letters. Creating a daily schedule and getting kids involved with household chores also helps.
Parents play a key role as children look to their parents to decipher the crisis. This opportunity can be used to help children build resilience, and make them understand how to take challenges in life and convert them into a learning experience.