The pandemic has turned children’s lives upside down. Without school and playtime, they are bound to their homes with nobody but parents and siblings for company. Children in nuclear families have their own set of challenges.
In the given situation it would be good for families to set a routine for their kids, spend quality time with them and give much-needed emotional support.
Here are a few things you can do to make a difference in your children’s lives:
1. Take care of your own emotions first: Parents first need to sort out their own mental struggles. If a parent has anxiety, it will reflect on children. It’s only when parents refill their emotional slots with, they can take care of their children’s emotional needs.
2. Recognize children’s feelings: Listen to your kids and talk to them about how they feel. Don’t ignore their emotions and empathize with them all the time. For example, you are unable to call your child’s friends for his/her birthday party. It is a difficult situation because the day means a lot for her and she may display emotionally charged behavior to somehow convince you to call everybody in for a celebration. While you cannot give in to her demand, you should acknowledge her loss, ask about her feelings, and validate them by showing that you understand. Allow your child to lead the discussion, rather than making assumptions about how he or she thinks and feels.
3. Wisdom over emotions: A wise mind can take in new information, be flexible considering alternatives, and be creative in thinking of solutions. Your emotional self will urge you to give up, act impulsively or rage. Wait for your wise mind to lead, and make decisions and problem solve with your wise mind. We cannot control the pandemic, but we can control what we do with it. Your child cannot control the current need for social distancing, but they can control how they choose to deal with the circumstances.
4. They cannot meet friends, but can definitely speak to them: Technology, with all its disadvantages, has helped us stay connected during these critical times. If you can make an occasional video call to your cousins or friends, it won’t be a bad idea to let your child speak to his/her friends over a chat and relieve his emotions. In fact, it is a good time for children to reconnect or connect with distant cousins and make new bonds.
5. Books are your best friends! Thus goes the old adage. There cannot be a more opportune time to introduce the young ones to the beautiful world of books. Buy some for them, rent others or simply push them into reading the kids corner in the daily newspaper. Remember your first comic book? Share your reading experiences as a kid with your little one. Books can provide a lot of fodder for new communications.
6. Home sweet home: Children need secure and reassuring relationships during testing times like these. Be liberal with hugs and cuddles. Be there for your child and regularly check on how he or she is doing. If possible, take advantage of this opportunity to spend more time together and come up with family activities that you all enjoy, like playing carom, ludo, cards or a game of cricket or badminton in the backyard will do wonders.
7. Set a routine & pick up new activities: Doing a set of activities on a regular basis will give your child’s day structure and purpose. A good and healthy routine with a combination of physical, mental and social exercises could just be the right recipe to overcome the loss of a normal life he was used to living in the pre-COVID times. Your child might find meaning through reading, biking, creating music, making movies, baking, dressing up, drawing, writing, planting a garden or building something. Encourage your child’s unique creativity. Say, for example, organize a talent show on a video call. Invite family or your child’s friends. Older kids might enjoy researching a topic that they’re passionate about and sharing what they’ve learned with friends.
8. Lose some, gain some: Give your child a feeling of being in control. Since they have lost so much: their school, friends and travel, it would be a good idea to let them make some decisions. Allow them to choose the family’s meals, pick what movie you watch on OTT, or even the game.
9. Exercise over screen time: So many children have been forced to study online using laptops or cellphones, which can make it tiresome staring at a screen all day. Make them get up from the comfort of the sofa and engage in physical activities. This is helpful for their bodies, but more importantly for their minds. Helping mother with daily chores could be a good way to teach them responsibility. Encourage them to get up early and soak in the morning sun. Tell them it is the best source of Vitamin D, which is very essential to keep COVID at bay. Follow an exercise schedule without forcing anything on them. Most importantly, lead by example. They will do it if you do it!