The world is facing an unprecedented crisis due to the coronavirus outbreak. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared this outbreak as pandemic and all the countries were informed to take immediate actions and scale up response to treat, detect, and reduce transmission to save people’s lives. Lockdown was initiated in order to break the chain of the virus transmission. Although lockdown has helped a lot in decreasing the number of cases, shutting things down for so long is not the only option as it affects the economy and other sectors.
Due to lockdown, home has become the office, gym, classroom, and even the playground for people. In order to maintain physical distance, children are confined to their homes. Therefore they may experience psychological disharmony such as sadness, stress, anxiety, confusion, scared, sleep disturbances, anger, uncertainty, and hopelessness.
Although it is near to impossible to hold children for so long but it is the only need of the situation. In this way, parents become very busy as they have to occupy their children, monitor and help in school assignments and exercises and also perform all day daily activity to keep the household in order.
Children are not able to see through the problem therefore it is the crucial time for the parents to maintain a healthy schedule for themselves as well as their children during this lockdown situation.
When a situation is perceived as challenging or threatening, the body responds with a series of chemical reactions that affect heart rate, blood pressure, metabolism, and other functions. These temporary adjustments help us adapt and survive, but when they happen too frequently or last too long they can produce lifelong chronic disease.
For children, whose bodies and minds are still growing, a well-tuned stress response system is especially important. High levels of early stress have been linked to impaired behavioural and emotional development as well as numerous health consequences later in life, including high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes. In their book Scared Sick: The Role of Childhood Trauma in Adult Disease, Robin Karr-Morse and Meredith Wiley provide an excellent introduction to these issues. This book raises urgent questions about how stress can create lasting negative impacts on behavioral and physical health.
Precautions are must for everyone but for the younger children parents are the primary source to introduce. Parents should keep in mind the appropriate way to introduce these precautionary measures as per the level of thinking of their child. Flooding of information may develop psychological distress in the children. As much as adults may try to avoid difficult topics, children often learn or know when something sad or scary happens. If adults don’t talk to them about it, a child may overestimate what is wrong or misunderstand adults’ silence. So, be the first to bring up the difficult topic. When parents tackle difficult conversations, they let their children know that they are available and supportive.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children and teens react, in part, to what they see from the adults around them. When parents and caregivers deal with the Covid calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children.
The most important thing is that the parent should be out of any stress and anxiety while informing about the safety measures to the children. Although stress is not always a negative condition it is unhealthy for the physical as well as psychological health. Anxiety also leaves a bad effect on mind and body.
Parents should plan stimulating and fun activities for the younger children well in advance so that they will be engaged and enjoyed to the fullest. This will also help children to come out of boredom. While preparing for the proper time table, parents should also take help from the concerned subject teacher and divide the activities and the course work so that there may be regular practice of the studies. Parents can also communicate with the supervisors and can share their problems regarding their children and can discover new methods of engaging them.
While school is out, children should not have in-person play dates with children from other households. If children are playing outside their own homes, it is essential that they remain 6 feet from anyone who is not in their own household. For maintaining social connections while social distancing, help your children have supervised phone calls or video chats with their friends.
Parents can involve their children in household help and can share responsibilities with them. Parents should also remember that each and every hour should not be as per the scheduled one, free and play time is also important for children. It boosts positivity and motivation in them.
Additionally, activities like proper hand washing, covering mouth and nose during sneezing, respecting personal space of others etc. should be introduced to the younger children very early along with its importance. Basically, it is a part of daily etiquette in the social setting. Children preferably model their parents’ actions and activities therefore, it is important for parents to follow such etiquette so that their children learn naturally.
However, adolescents are relatively easier to handle but they also need equal caring and attention from the parents. Parents should talk about the cause and spread of the pandemic and also gave them an opportunity to share their inner thoughts and feelings. It is important for adolescents to gain emotional stability in this crisis situation. Parents should assure their children that whatever the condition they are always there for them.
Another aspect of this lockdown is family members are spending time together parents are available 24/7 therefore they can utilise the time with proper planning to inculcate good manners and behaviors in their children as well as can help to overcome shortfalls of the children.
Parenting in the midst of a terrible pandemic, is tough as well as challenging. Certainly, there is cause for all of us to be anxious, but we have to be stronger and alert and should possess openness, the ability to listen and good intentions. Boost enthusiasm and positivity so that children can develop positivity and psychological harmony in the very dark cloud of coronavirus pandemic. Enjoy the quality time with family and nurture the bonding with love and care.
Parul Kalia is a PhD researcher at the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, at Punjab Agricultural University.