The recent pandemic seems to have turned the world upside-down. Most people are working from home, schools are closed, and social distancing is the norm. In these uncertain times, having your kids around can be a blessing, but it can also be a struggle to engage with them constantly. You may be concerned about the impact of this disease on your children and whether your child could have it. You may also be wondering how to talk to them about the virus and help them deal with their emotions at this time.
Impact on children
It’s important to keep in mind that both you and your child may be feeling anxious about the current pandemic. They may miss playing with their friends, going to school, or may feel uncomfortable about not being able to leave the house.
When your child is stressed, you may notice a difference in their behaviour. Here are some signs that you need to look out for:
With toddlers and younger children, they may become clingy and want to have you around all the time, or they may withdraw from people or their environment and want to be left alone.
Children often deal with stress by regressing into habits of their younger self. Children in primary school may display behaviours that they had grown out of such as speaking with a lisp, thumbsucking, having imaginary friends, bedwetting, etc.
You may also notice a change in their sleeping and eating patterns. Children may suddenly eat a lot more, or a lot less than they normally do. They may also start experiencing insomnia, nightmares, sleeplessness or may begin to frequently wake up at night.
When your child is stressed they are more likely to have mood swings. It may also aggravate their demeanor. For example, a child who is aggressive may have more frequent outbursts, a child who is quiet may become even more withdrawn.
If your child is slightly older, they may also start worrying about their own health as well as that of their loved ones. They may ask many questions or may constantly seek reassurance. It’s important to provide them with the same to help ease their anxiety.
Your kids may have trouble concentrating on any one task and this may affect their studies or even their household chores. They may also start pushing their boundaries and breaking rules as a result of their anxiety.
Their anxiety may also manifest in the form of physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches or tiredness.
Talking to your children about the ongoing pandemic
Your children may have heard about the virus on the news or through adults around them. It is important that instead of avoiding the topic, you discuss the pandemic with your children. If you are feeling anxious about the situation, take a minute to calm yourself. Once you feel comfortable, explain to them in a simple, and age-appropriate way what the virus is. You can also use small drawings, a playful strategy or even a role-play to explain the illness to them. Explain how it can affect them and tell them to come to you if they feel sick.
Learning about the disease can stress them out as well, so it is important that you reassure them about the situation and provide them with credible information based on facts. Be open to the questions they have. There is a lot of misinformation out there, and if your child has heard some rumours about the disease, you can work with them to dispel such myths.
Helping your children cope
Communicate with them: The most important thing you can do for your child is to be there for them. Let them know that they can speak to you about their fears or ask you any questions they have. Make them aware of the symptoms of the disease and help them understand how they can protect themselves against it.
Help them maintain hygiene: While toddlers or younger kids may not understand the situation, they will be able to sense the seriousness of the situation based on your behaviour. You can teach them hygienic habits such as washing their hands, wearing a mask and cleaning up after themselves using songs and fun games. Explain to them that it is vital to maintain an appropriate distance from others and that they should stay indoors as far as possible.
Get them involved: If your children are older you can get them involved with household chores such as cleaning and washing and show them the right way of disinfecting their surroundings. You can also watch and discuss news together and ways to help those who are less fortunate.
Maintain a routine: Irrespective of the age of your kids, there are some things which you must take care of. Ensure that your kids still maintain a routine involving bedtime, school time (through homeschool or tele-school), household chores and family time. Try to schedule video calls with their friends so that your child doesn’t feel lonely.
Spend time together: Use this time to start new family rituals such as game night, studying together or even praying together. Remember to share the load with your partner or other family members living with you. Encourage your kids to take up new hobbies at this time. Set rules that your children have to follow in this new situation, but be flexible with them. For example, you can explain to them that they mustn’t disturb you during your work hours or if you are on the phone, but if they feel ill they can come to you at any time.
Remember, that the world is going through a difficult time and this affects your child as well. Keep the communication lines open, and make sure they know that they are loved, supported and safe to help them.
Bologna, C. (2020, March 27). 10 Mental Health Signs To Watch Out For In Kids In The Age Of COVID-19. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.in/entry/kids-mental-health-signs-coronavirus_l_5e7e2867c5b6cb9dc19f37ff?g
Caring for Children. (2020, March 28). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/children.html
Ehmke, R., & Child Mind Institute. (n.d.). Talking to Kids About the Coronavirus. Retrieved from https://childmind.org/article/talking-to-kids-about-the-coronavirus/
Jacobson, R., & Child Mind Institute. (n.d.). Supporting Kids During the Coronavirus Crisis. Retrieved from https://childmind.org/article/supporting-kids-during-the-covid-19-crisis/