The novel virus has brought drastic changes to everyone’s lives globally. Children are coping with a lot of change and stress as a result of this pandemic. And although the symptoms of the virus are milder in children, everyone is breathing the air of uncertainty and stress that surrounds the disease. Then, there are the strict social distancing protocols and life in quarantine that has begun to impact children’s development, as well as their emotional and mental health.
A study was conducted by Unicef for understanding the impact of the pandemic on children’s mental and psycho-social well-being. This led to the development of guidelines and strategies to assist parents in understanding their children better and cope effectively with the various changes during the pandemic. To thrive and grow during these stressful times, a child needs to feel safe and protected, and foster a healthy and nurturing relationship with his community.
How is the pandemic impacting children?
The pandemic has impacted everything and taken away the key source of structure and socialization of their children, the company of their mates. Although experts are of the view that it is too soon to predict the long-term impacts of life in quarantine and how it impacts children, in general, parents have begun to notice behavioral changes as well as mood swings in kids, such as outbursts and tantrums.
But it is not the same for everyone. Where some parents have it rough with their children during the lockdown period, some parents are using this isolation period to get closer to their children, bond with them, and rebuild with them by spending time together and just slowing down.
How a child responds or reacts to the current situation is impacted by numerous factors such as age, family structure, siblings, personality, financial standing, as well as the intensity of the lockdown in their area/city. Due to the drastic changes, everyone has to make to their lives. Parents especially have it tough with the multitasking. There is work from home, homeschooling, and of course, the household responsibilities. All of this is overwhelming that also makes parent doubt their parenting approach.
Here are a few ways you can parent effectively during this pandemic:
Establish Limits on Media Use
You go online or turn on the T.V., and everywhere you go there is news about coronavirus. And constantly being exposed to the news of how the virus is impacting people’s lives all over the world could be confusing, exhausting, and even scary for children. See that you impose limits on the daily intake of news depending on your children’s age.
And if you have young kids, they might not fully understand what is happening around them. The might not fully decipher the news. See that you do it factually, according to the development of your child. Young children are particularly scared. So, try that you reassure them and make them feel safe.
But see that you stick to what is the truth. Giving your children excessive reassurance in these troubling times, when the situation in your area is not good, and they want to be reassured all day long may not be a good idea.
Structure Your Day
The biggest countries of the world have been in a state of lockdown. Both schools and offices are closed, and with children and teens being at home all day long, having a proper structure and schedule for the day is crucial. With no clear routine or schedule for the day could lead to increased anxiety. In these uncertain times, having a routine to follow allows for some predictability in these tough times.
But balance is the key. See that you do not go overboard with it. If you formulate a strict schedule, that restricts them, it can be problematic. Apart from the regular bedtimes and waking up times, you can add a bit of flexibility.
Spend Time with Your Child
Although it happened during a pandemic when you are social distancing from everyone and everything, the virus has provided parents with a lot of time out of which they can certainly spend some to have a quality time with their children. Even 10-20 minutes of it daily could make a lot of difference. It could help them feel supported and understood.
Here is how you can do it. For children who are between the ages of 2-10 years, you can allow this time for some ‘freely chosen play’ or ‘child-directed play’. In these games/activities, you won’t be giving telling the child what to do or giving instructions about anything. This helps in fostering a strong bond with your child while building self-esteem and confidence.
For older children, such as tweens and tees, you can engage in an activity of your choice. This could be any age-appropriate activity or hobby, without you being in control. See that when you do so, it is an activity of your teen’s choice.
Adopt and Practice Compassion
Compassion is extremely important during these times. Adopt this trait and practice it together with your children. This would allow them to notice and feel the suffering of others and try to relieve them of that. Empathy and compassion are two of the most important traits and make you understand and feel other’s suffering. Being compassionate is beneficial for emotional well-being and could help in decreasing your stress.
Resume or Find Hobbies with Children
With schools being closed, a large majority of schools have resorted to online classes and educational sessions. And although learning through schoolwork is important, having creative activities to indulge in and hobbies are necessary for developing your brain. It could be drawing, DIY projects, writing, playing musical instruments, cooking, or baking. Learning anything new could assist your child in boosting their sense of fulfillment and achievement.
Positive Feedback is a Must
Yes, having kids at home 24/7 for the past couple of months must be exhausting both physically and mentally. And even with good intentions, a large number of parents have this need to correct every movement and action of their child. The annoying or wrong ones, of course. This tendency could certainly escalate as the kids are at home all the time. Avoid doing that. They are also trying to cope. It might seem annoying to you, but it is usually unintentional.
The children are suffering. Their freedom has been taken away too. The simplest joys of playing with friends in the park or the school ground. So, see that you refrain from it. See the good things that your child does and praise that good behavior instead. Avoiding giving frequent negative feedback and criticism as it can harm your child’s self-esteem.
Take a breath, slow down, and reflect
Suddenly, we have a lot of time on our hands. And this makes us think, even overthink sometimes. See that you practice mindful pauses throughout the day. And take small breaks in between with your children. This way, you can have better emotional health with your child. This could help you in feeling a lot calmer and look at things with positivity while regaining your perspective.
Slow down for a bit. You and your child don’t need to be doing something all the time. Slow down and pause the activities.
Stay Connected with Friends and Family
Although you should limit your child’s exposure to the outside world, see that you stay connected with your friends and family, and so does your children. Emotional support from loved ones during these saddening times could be of great help. There are so many ways to remain digitally connected and see your loved ones and family.
At the same time, do not forget to keep an eye on your child’s digital activities and ensure that they do not use excessive social media or get addicted to any inappropriate activities.
Children are young and naïve. And in the present times, they are surrounded by sadness and confusion. See that you don’t invalidate their emotions or feelings. As a parent, see that you provide accurate information to them according to their age and understanding. Answer your child’s questions, they may have many, but do not go into too much detail. Tell them as much as they can understand easily.
Try to reinforce a sense of normalcy. In many countries, the lockdown is being lifted. But still, life is not going to be completely normal all of a sudden. So, stick to a healthy routine with some physical exercise and screen time. Try to get some fresh air too, while avoiding too much social interaction.
With a nurturing, flexible, and compassionate attitude, you can help in making your child feel safe and help to deal with stress effectively in the future.