The world is going through an unprecedented, crisis time. COVID 19 has invaded and interrupted every aspect of our lives. Parenting is a challenge at all times, and is a especially so, in these troubled times. How do we get through these trying times as parents?
Talking to kids about COVID 19
Children who are very young, say, below 6 years old and not going to school, may not have heard about COVID 19, so it is best not to bring up the topic in their hearing. However, children who are older, and are affected by the crisis through school closure, would know about it either through news on television, social media or their friends. What is important is to adopt a very matter of fact demeanor in their presence, when talking about the problem. Tell them the facts, and also that if one keeps personal hygiene and follow health guidelines like social distancing, one should be safe. It is of paramount importance that the parents do not get anxious and panicky.
How to enforce protective measures?
Young or old, all kids should be taught to wash their hands for 20 seconds (or the time taken to sing ‘happy birthday’ song twice) before and after meals, after play, after they go to the bathroom, after they come in from outside and after they’ve blown their nose or put their hands in their mouth. Make sure they are drying them thoroughly. Hand sanitizers is the other option, if handwashing is not possible. Since school is closed, there is actually no need for kids to go out of the house, and it is best that they do not venture out for anything, be it a birthday party or a play date. They need to be inside the house.
How to engage kids at home during home isolation?
This is a big topic and one that all parents worry about. Children are by nature restless, and need to do something. They cannot stand boredom. If parents are also staying home, the best approach is to treat this as a special bonding holiday, in which your family spends as much time together as possible. Books are a very helpful ally in this time, and a lot of books for kids are available as well as animated stories online. Other ways to get kids engaged are printing out coloring pages and getting kids different types of coloring equipment such as color pencils, crayons, pastels and water colour. To avoid a mess, spread newspapers on the floor, and just dispose them off after the activity. Other things to do are cooking with kids, letting them do chores to earn half a dollar per day etc.
Build a routine
Children thrive on routines because it gives predictability and structure to their lives. Assign time for each of their activities. There should be a fixed wake up time, meal times, reading time, coloring time, bed time and time to do chores. This is a good time to establish family rituals, such as having meals together and each member of the family narrating a story or telling a joke. It is unwise for a parent to be spending all his/her time entertaining or engaging the child. The child should be able to amuse himself alone for some time, either with his toys, or reading. This gives parents much-needed time alone. For families blessed to have a house with a small compound, it will be great to spend evening time together outside, either playing games like basketball or badminton, or doing gardening.
Ensuring healthy indoor life
What suffers the most during an isolation period is often physical activity and nutritious food. Physical activity suffers because there is no more going to the playground or going on playdates. The only way to solve this problem is to have a family exercise or yoga time, when all members of the family will join in an exercise or yoga routine, perhaps following audio or video instructions. Nutritious food also might become scare because there is only a limited amount of perishable food such as vegetables that families can buy and store in the refrigerator, which means that nonperishable food such as canned food may be preferred. This is not good news for health, and parents should try as much as possible to restock on fresh fruits and vegetables as much as they can.
A final word on screen time discipline
Both adults and children will be tempted to spend a lot of time on chats and Netflix movies. However, life is so much more than all this. Therefore, make sure that screen time is only part of the day’s activities, and the Wi-Fi is switched on and available only for a certain period of the day.