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Healthy parenting during the Covid-19 pandemic:

2 years ago

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By Dr.Charuni Kohombange     Over one year has passed since Covid-19 hit all nations across the globe. Children are witnessing their parents losing jobs, losing their loved ones, and the closing of schools, while missing out on fun times with friends. This situation results in a tremendous burden on the minds of children, affecting their psychological wellbeing and development.   Parents play a significant role in how their children cope and in helping them adapt to the pandemic situation. This article excerpts the discussion with Family Health Bureau Consultant Community Physician, with a special interest in child development, Dr. Asiri Hewamalage.     Set up time to spend with children  Change your schedules and spend some time with your children. It is important to make children feel that they are safe and secure at home. Depending on your daily schedules, it can be just 20 minutes or even longer. It is good if it is at the same time each day, so the young children or teenagers can look forward to it.   Encourage children to involve themselves in physical activities on a daily basis. This will improve their mood, as it enhances dopamine levels – the hormone that is responsible for feeling happiness.     [caption id="attachment_144214" align="alignright" width="354"] Dr. Asiri Hewamalage[/caption] Teach them about physical distancing and hand hygiene  If the environment is safe to step out of the home, you may take your children out for a walk. This will prevent the negative impact of the pandemic restrictions on their psychosocial wellbeing. Tell them why it is important to keep physical distance from others during the pandemic and always encourage them to use telephone and messaging to stay connected with friends and relatives. It is the physical distancing, not the social distancing, that is pertinent to keeping safe from Covid-19.   Make hand-washing and hygiene fun for young kids. Make a 20-second song for washing hands which includes actions. Give them plus points and praise for regular hand-washing. Make a game to see how few times we can touch our faces and offer a reward for the least number of touches. These activities will inculcate good habits in young kids in a simple way. If you practice keeping safe distances and hand hygiene yourself, and treat others with compassion, especially those who are sick or vulnerable, your young children and teenagers will learn from you.    Listen to your children Be open and listen to your children while giving them the freedom to talk. Your kids will come to you for support and reassurance. Listen to them when they express how they are feeling. Accept how they feel and comfort them with reassurance. As children will be more inquisitive about the pandemic situation, provide them with the correct information and make it a learning opportunity to find correct facts. It is important to consider reliable sources of information and avoid fear psychosis.   Emphasise on the fact that Covid-19 affects all humans, irrespective of their class, caste, or creed. Convince them of the significance of showing empathy towards patients and their families while emphasising that “heroes never look down upon others”.    Safe internet use  With the implementation of online learning, children get more time and freedom to be online. As the kids are cooped up at home, they tend to use the internet more often to reduce loneliness and boredom. However, this can expose them to many risks involving online gaming, social media, and chats which can entrap your child even into sexual abuse. This situation is especially risky for teenagers. Strengthen the security settings and privacy settings on all apps and social media to protect children from hazards that can occur from internet use. It is vital for parents to have a considerably good knowledge on devices and use of the internet. Educate your adolescent children about fake profiles on social media networks and risks that arise by communicating with them. Being with the children while they are using the internet is important to identify any mishaps swiftly. Build confidence in your children to discuss internet use and any unusual incidents. Frequent discussions with children will build up their trust in the parents, thus preventing many unsafe situations. Always be alert about the behaviour of your children. Unusual behavioural patterns such as being anxious, annoyed, working alone, and ignoring others may indicate a problem associated with internet use.      Allocate internet-free time schedules during the day to get engaged with household activities, playing games, reading books, etc. Stay away from all devices including the television and mobile phone during this time and focus on being with family.    Build up positive thinking Sometimes it is difficult to think positively when children annoy you. You will often end up saying: “Stop doing that!” However, children are much more likely to obey you if you give them positive instructions and lots of praise for what they do right.  Say the behaviour you want to see using positive words. For example, say: “Please put your toys away,” instead of “don’t make a mess”.  Shouting at your child will make you and them more stressed. Get your child’s attention by calling their name and always keep your tone calm.   Praise your young child or teenager for the things they have done well. This will encourage them to do that good thing again. It will also reassure them that you notice and care.  Can your child actually do what you are asking them to? It is very hard for a child to stay quiet inside the house for a whole day, but maybe they can keep quiet for 15 minutes while you are busy on a call. Always keep in mind that all children misbehave and it is a normal reaction when children are tired, hungry, afraid, or stuck at home.     Redirect the children It is common for the kids to get restless when they have to be indoors for many days and months. Identify challenging behaviours of children early and redirect their attention towards the correct path. When they start to get restless, you can distract them with something interesting. It is always better to stop the restless behaviour before it starts.  Assign your children simple tasks at home and give them responsibility. Always praise them when they do it. This will encourage the children to do it better the next time.     Keep calm and manage your stress  Millions of people across the globe are having the same fears and uncertainties as you. Many are facing the fear of disease, fear of losing loved ones, and loss of jobs and income. It is important to talk to someone and relieve your stresses and fears. Talk to a friend who you can be open with about how you are feeling. Avoid social media if it makes you panic. When spending every day with your children, it is normal for you to feel irritable and angry; you might also feel that you are depressed. If you feel irritable, be mindful about what makes you angry. Try and figure out when it happens and also evaluate how you would normally react to that situation. Try to find out the root cause and prevent these reactions from happening. If it happens when you are tired, get some sleep or rest. If it is when you are feeling alone, ask someone for support.   When you start feeling angry, take 20 seconds to cool down. Breathe in and out slowly five times before you speak or move. Focus your attention elsewhere for a few minutes to regain control of your emotions.   Family harmony makes a significant difference to psychological wellbeing. To foster this harmony, try to share household chores, childcare, and other tasks equally amongst family members. Create a schedule for time “on” and time “off” with other adults in your household and keep some free time for everyone to enjoy some family time. Keep this time free of distractions posed by digital devices like smartphones and television.   Listen to others when they are talking to you and be responsive and show them that you hear what they are saying. Find ways to spend quality time with your partner and other adults in your home, be empathetic, and help them relieve any anxiety regarding the disease.     Family budgeting to release financial stress  Covid-19 has created the largest economic shock the world has experienced in decades. According to the World Economic Forum, the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdown caused 114 million people to lose their jobs over the course of 2020. It is normal to be financially constrained at this time and a family budget is needed to decide what we will spend our money on. Young children or teenagers may not be aware of this difficult financial condition and they may request you to buy things, which can lead to arguments. Making a budget together helps children understand that we all need to make hard decisions in difficult times. Discuss needs and wants. Needs are the things that are important for your family to survive, such as food and medicine. Wants are the things that are nice to have but not essential. Discuss with your children your income and the things you can afford to buy and what you should not consider buying at this difficult time. Involve the children in decision-making and give them responsibilities in managing the family budget.   Fear, uncertainty, and being held up inside your home for long durations create a tough scenario during which you need to be calm with your children. These healthy parenting tips will help you cope with stress, manage children’s emotions and behaviours, and build up resilience on the home front.

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