How to talk to children about COVID-19 and keep them engaged during the lockdown
With schools shut, events cancelled, separation from friends and having to stay indoors all day, most children are indeed going through a tough time.
Anxiety, fear, uncertainty about the future and constant worry about health: almost every adult currently living through the COVID-19 pandemic is experiencing these. What you might not realise is that even children are going through a similarly stressful time.
Children, no matter what age they are, can pick up on what their parents, family members, teachers, friends and loved ones are going through. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), most children deal with such emotions in various ways, but the current global healthcare emergency has brought all the systems children generally depend on to a grinding halt.
With schools shut, events cancelled, separation from friends and having to stay indoors all day, most children are indeed going through a tough time right now. This is precisely the reason why you need to take extra care of the children now and show your support.
How to talk to children about COVID-19 ?
UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have come up with several parenting tips so that you can explain the current situation to kids without alarming them:
- Have a calm and proactive conversation with your children about what COVID-19 is and how they can contribute by staying healthy. Show kids how to wash their hands properly, how to sneeze and cough into their elbow, etc.
- Explain without panicking or exaggerating in any way that this is a disease, and it’s okay to share if you feel you’re showing symptoms. Make sure there’s no stigma attached to the disease.
- Reassure the children that doctors and scientists all over the world are working on treating and curing patients, and the pandemic is a phase that will pass if you deal with it properly.
- Be patient with young children and make sure that you deal with any symptoms of anxiety on their part kindly. Do not resort to harsh words or punishment.
- Keep children away from disturbing news updates about the pandemic on television and social media. If they accidentally do watch something distressing, talk to them immediately without infantilising them.
- Teach through your own example. Stay calm, informed and follow all the preventive measures recommended by the WHO. Kids learn from those around them, so be the right role model to follow during this health emergency.
How to keep children engaged during COVID-19 pandemic?
Explaining the situation as it stands to children and keeping them engaged for weeks at home during a COVID-19 lockdown are two completely different issues most parents are facing right now. Once you’ve explained what the COVID-19 pandemic is about and how kids too can do their bit by following the preventive measures properly and regularly, you can use the following guidelines set by UNICEF and WHO to keep them engaged:
- Maintain a routine. Keep study, exercise, meals and sleep-wake patterns fixed because following routines usually calms children and also instils discipline.
- Set some time aside for each child every day, even if it’s only 20 minutes. Exercise together, engage in a hobby or teach your child a life skill like cooking during this time. This will make sure your kid doesn’t feel abandoned and knows you care.
- Giving children choices is a good way to inculcate responsibility and confidence. Ask them what they want to do with their free time now that going out is not an option. You’ll find kids coming up with some very creative indoor activities too.
- Keep your kids connected to their friends, grandparents, teachers and other loved ones through video calls and other means. Conduct online play dates and classes with the cooperation of other parents and teachers.
- Praise your children for washing their hands regularly, keeping their rooms clean, helping out with chores, etc This will boost their confidence and show them that following preventive measures has immediate rewards too.
- If your child is a toddler, read picture books, sing songs, dance, stack blocks and copy facial expressions to keep them entertained.
- If your child is young and goes to school, then help him or her with schoolwork or read books, watch cartoons and movies, dance to music, cook or do chores, and exercise with them as well.
- If you have any teenagers, you should have conversations about their interests, listen to music, watch movies and sitcoms, and exercise together. If you feel your teenager is mature enough, you can also discuss the news and COVID-19 updates with them.
For more information, read our article on COVID-19 Prevention and Care Tips for Parents With Young Children.
Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.
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