Parenting in the time of COVID-19 crisis

Children and teens react, in part, on what they see from the adults around them. When parents and caregivers deal with the COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children in this difficult time. However, not all children and teens respond to stress in the same way. Some common changes to watch out for parents in children for include:

  • Excessive crying or irritation in younger children
  • Returning to behaviors they have outgrown (for example, toileting accidents or bedwetting)
  • Excessive worry or sadness
  • Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits
  • Irritability and “acting out” behaviors in teens
  • Poor performance in studies or avoiding studies
  • Difficulty with attention and concentration
  • Avoidance of activities enjoyed in the past
  • Unexplained headaches or body pain

Below are some reactions according to age group and the best ways you can respond:

AGE GROUP REACTIONSHOW TO HELP
PRESCHOOLFear of being alone, bad dreams
Speech difficulties
Loss of bladder/bowel control, constipation, bed-wetting
Change in appetite
Increased temper tantrums, whining, or clinging behaviors
Patience and tolerance
Provide reassurance (verbal and physical)
Encourage expression through play, reenactment, story-telling
Allow short-term changes in sleep arrangements
Plan calming, comforting activities before bedtime
Maintain regular family routines
Avoid media exposure
SCHOOL-AGE
(ages 6-12)
Irritability, whining, aggressive behavior
Clinging, nightmares
Sleep/appetite disturbance
Physical symptoms (headaches, stomachaches)
Withdrawal from peers, loss of interest
Competition for parents’ attention
Forgetfulness about chores and new information learned at school
Patience, tolerance, and reassurance
Play sessions and staying in touch with friends through telephone and Internet
Regular exercise and stretching
Engage in educational activities (workbooks, educational games)
Participate in structured household chores
Set gentle but firm limits
Discuss the current outbreak and encourage questions. Include what is being done in the family and community
Encourage expression through play and conversation
Help family create ideas for enhancing health promotion behaviors and maintaining family routines
Limit media exposure, talking about what they have seen/heard including at school
Address any stigma or discrimination occurring and clarify misinformation
ADOLESCENT
(ages 13-18)
Physical symptoms (headaches, rashes, etc.)
Sleep/appetite disturbance
Agitation or decrease in energy, apathy
Ignoring health promotion behaviors
Isolating from peers and loved ones
Concerns about stigma and injustices
Avoiding/cutting school
Patience, tolerance, and reassurance
Encourage continuation of routines
Encourage discussion of outbreak experience with peers, family (but do not force)
Stay in touch with friends through telephone, Internet, video games
Participate in family routines, including chores, supporting younger siblings, and planning strategies to enhance health promotion behaviors
Limit media exposure, talking about what they have seen/heard including at school
Discuss and address stigma, prejudice and potential injustices occurring during outbreak
(Resource: THE NATIONAL CHILD TRAUMATIC STRESS NETWORK)

There are many things you can do to support your child, but follow few simple steps when you interact with them and have conversation on COVID-19

Keep your own emotions in check: While talking to your child about the coronavirus try not to show your anxiety, as this will only add to their concerns. Remember, you are a role model for your children. How you handle this stressful situation can affect how your children manage their worries. Keep your own emotions in check while talking to your child about the coronavirus so you don’t make your child more anxious.

Respond to questions in an age-appropriate manner: Reassure your child or teen that they are safe. Let them know it is ok if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from it. Talk about all the efforts being made in your city or country to keep people safe and healthy. Reassure your child that organisations and individuals are involved in developing vaccines and medication to contain the virus, that the hospitals are prepared to treat people who fall sick, and everyone the world over is working together to look after each other. Answer whatever questions your child may have, but don’t overwhelm him with too much information. With older children, have open and calm conversations. Beware of where and how they get information, especially with children who are active online. Point them to reliable and age-appropriate sources of information, so they don’t end up getting exposed to news that could be incorrect or disturbing. In case you’re not able to answer a question your child asks, do your research together to find the answers.

Remember to be available for your child: Your child may experience loneliness as they can not go to school, tuition, parks or when they are asked to avoid getting together with friends to prevent the spread of the virus. Spend time playing with your child to prevent him/her from feeling isolated. Young children often express their feelings and emotions through play. By playing with your child, you can help them experience your care, relieve their anxiety, and improve their sense of safety. For older children, particularly if they are feeling lonely due to lack of interaction with their classmates, spend time connecting as a family. Encourage your child to keep in touch with their friends via phone calls or messaging online. You can also brainstorm with your child and make a list of enjoyable things to do. Some Additional Activities and resources to keep your children or teens engaged.

  • Keep up the schedule: Even though the schools are closed, stick to the schedule. Wake up the child on the same time, make them study and have the breaks with some fun activity. Keep your whole family’s schedule consistent when it comes to bedtimes, meals, and exercise.
  • Keeping time for digital exposure: Try limiting the child’s screening time as they stay home whole day it is easier for kids to get addicted to digital exposure including `Idiot Box’.
  • Take help in some House hold chores: Infuse fun into your regular household chores and get your child involved in helping around the house cleaning & organizing.
  • Take time to talk with your child or teen about the COVID-19 outbreak: Answer questions and share facts about COVID-19 in a way that your child or teen can understand.
  • Set up a treasure hunt: Use as many items as possible which can engage your child for few hours.
  • Read at home: You can use as many books as possible other than school books to make your child’s reading skill awesome. Also, they can listen Audio Stories or read story books and some more books.
  • Create a Hobby: It could be anything from building a Fort or spaceship from extra Amazon or Flipkart Boxes to Plantation to practicing or learning musical instrument.
  • Write a Letter or Diary: Ask your child to write a letter to the loved ones instead of massaging them. This would help them in their writing skills as well. Also you can encourage them to write the diary.
  • Break records of playing Indoor games: Play all kind of indoor games from board games to jigsaw puzzle to checkers. This would boost their attention & concentration power.
  • Drawing & Craft: You can encourage your child’s art. Children have a great imagination, so ask them to draw or create or paint something new which would help them in eye-hand coordination.
  • Take a virtual field trip: There are many World MuseumChildren MuseumAquariumFarmAfrican WildlifeCastleNational ParkIconic venues or Zoo (live-streaming animals on their Facebook page daily at 3:00 PM) others goes live online everyday at a particular time giving a virtual trip to the world or just watch earth from above. Here your child can learn about many different things while sitting at home.

Also remember to take care of yourself. Put your own well-being high on the list of priorities. Working at home with children around requires a lot of patience and flexibility. Take care of yourself by getting enough exercise, eating right, staying hydrated, and making sleep a priority. Ask for and accept help from others. Take time off to recharge in whatever ways make sense in your situation. Give yourself due consideration!

In addition, identify trusted sources of information you can turn to, such as MoHFW, UNICEF, WHO or CDC.

Some more resource & information in Hindi language are available in my YouTube video:

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