Due to the global pandemic of COVID -19, the future of millions of children across South Asia is being torn apart. Children may be less susceptible to the virus than adults but the pandemic has upended their lives in unprecedented ways. It has shown how fragile our everyday life is. Poor are the worst-affected. Poorest families have not been able to assess online learning or continue their education in any other way.
Many, especially young girls may never return to schools. Vital health services have also been destroyed and interrupted. This means children are not receiving the vaccination and nutrition services they need to grow up healthy and strong. For some children, this pandemic has meant being confined with their abusers. Others have struggled with depression and some have seen mood swings and showing tantrums as the only way out. This is the hidden part of the pandemic and it’s likely to get much worse in the future.
The COVID -19 crisis and lockdown have pushed many families into poverty. Many have lost their source of income leading to malnourishment among children.
The surge in malnutrition means children are more susceptible not only to COVID- 19 but to many other infectious diseases like diarrhea, measles, and diphtheria.
But there is hope. We need to work in new and innovative ways to protect children from this pain. The future of millions of children depend on the action we take today. It is an unprecedented time and no one knows how long it can go and how deadly it can be.
It can bring worse in us but also can bring amazing parts of humanity which we have seen in our homes and community. There’s no perfect and right way to do this. Schedules are really important especially for kids to have some predictability to their day. It is also helpful for those who are trying to work and meet their deadlines. Now is a good time to tune into inner voice, negative thoughts with positive ones which won’t happen overnight. But we have to practice.
Here are some tips to help you reassure your children and create safety amid uncertainty :
(1)Suggestion On Talking With Children:
This is of the most concern on every parent’s mind. So important thing is to let the child question guide you and to try to keep the explanation age-appropriate. Be sure to be truthful and do not offer unnecessary details and facts. This is especially true with primary school-age children. For example, while you might explain coronavirus is making people very sick it’s not necessary to provide details about the number of deaths. Brief, simple information that balance Covid-19 facts with appropriate reassurance that adults are there to help and keep them healthy and take care of them.
Also, this age group is least vocal about what they are thinking, worries that they may have in their mind but they are certainly very perceptive about what they are noticing changes.
Secondary school-age kids are often more vocal about their safety and they can ask what will happen if COVID-19 spreads in their area. They may need help separating reality from rumor and fantasy. This age group may already have access to information through electronic devices and social media. So we often have to do that for ourselves as we kind of search web and social media.
It is also possible to talk with them about how our national community leaders, health workers are working to keep them safe and to prevent germs from spreading.
(2)Teach Appropriate Health Hygiene:
Practice with your children proper handwashing and cleaning that involves disinfection practices. Explain patiently and lovingly what social distancing means and why it is of so much crucial. Discuss with them what healthy lifestyles and choices mean like sleep, nutrition, movement of the body, etc.
Explain that a healthy lifestyle not only boosts our immune system but it also builds a coping mechanism and resilience.
(3) Blaming Game:
Children especially adolescents and teenagers must have mood swings and frustration for not being able to be with their peers. As their stress and anxiety rise, your children’s behavior may deteriorate. They may be more agitated, show tantrums, and struggle to manage anxiety or other emotions.
We have to help our children understand why things like cancellations of events and closures of school are temporary and done to protect communities at large. Blame and anger, while a natural reaction leads only to negativity.
(4)Allocate Certain Time:
School not only gives structure to pupils’ lives, but it also affords them less time to stare at a phone. Spacing out their meal and prompting them to go to bed earlier. It also forces them to move around more. Break time kickabouts and games lessons help them tremendously.
Now as children are mostly confined at home, parents have to see not just how long a child is on a screen but what they are watching it. The rapid change in technology over the last two decades had left parents scrambling to adjust to a new normal for children that inevitably includes a screen.
Children today need digital mentors, they need to develop good instincts and learn to exercise appropriate caution in their online surroundings. So much of everyday life is managed with the screen now.
Today adults need to help their children balance the massive scale of connectivity that comes with the internet. , while encouraging meaningful relationships with peers, online and off. They can help children develop a digital code of honor that will help them experience all the amazing knowledge and new worlds available online and empower them to recognize bias, fake news, and cyberbullying as well as poor quality content. Screen as in part helps in building the most connected and highly educated generation in history.
UNICEF’s global kids’ online report shares research that: the more time children spend playing games on a screen, the more likely they are to also use the screen for activities that build knowledge and strengthen emotional intelligence and critical thinking skills. In another term, empowering your kids to be confident online will give them a better judgment of what is and isn’t appropriate.
Although trying to keep children disciplined and establishing a routine is nearly impossible during this crisis, it is possible to make ‘different’ the new normal. Teach flexibility and establish somewhat regular routines.
Things like specific time for homework, time for play, rest, meals, etc all of this can still occur during the crisis.
Children may struggle with their emotional regulation as a normal part of dealing with stress and anxiety. It is important to understand the behavior they may exhibit in the context of the stress. Be flexible in your response to the behaviors, guiding children to more acceptable and appropriate ways to ask for help and support. Children are looking to parents for reassurance and comfort.
Dr. Aruna is a Pediatrician working in Civil Service Hospital and International friendship Children’s Hospital located in Kathmandu, Nepal. She successfully completed the post-graduate program in Pediatric Nutrition affiliated from the Boston University School of Medicine. She did her observership in Neonatology from Belgium. She along with her colleagues and mentor has published a handbook ‘Mero Pahilo Swatha Pustika ‘ which answers all the queries regarding infants and children. She can be contacted here.
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