POSTED May 13, 2020
Six tips for helping your children through the COVID-19 crisis
Tips we share with vulnerable caregivers in our programs during this time apply to all parents and people
By María Teresa Cardoza, program officer, sponsorship/protection, Nicaragua
The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the way we live, from our routines to the way we relate to each other. It’s been an emotional burden for many, including impressionable children.
Their support system and routines have changed within their family, school, community and society. In some countries, a child’s right to education, recreation and access to healthcare is evolving and especially risky in fragile and/or overtaxed systems.
Indeed, children are resilient, but they’re also still developing, so it’s important to consider the impact the pandemic could have on your kids’ life. Use this time to teach and learn from them, reducing the potential trauma the lockdown could cause.
Below are six tips to help you minimize the emotional toll this crisis could have on you and your family.
1) Take care of yourself
How you process this crisis can influence how your feel about it, too. Acknowledge it’s not easy, recognize your emotions and allow yourself time to be worried, concerned, sad or angry, before acknowledging you’re strong and resilient. You’re equipped with everything you need to handle difficult situations. Remember difficult times you’ve overcome, recall how you handled them and what you learned.
Create a routine, eat healthy, get lots of sleep, connect with friends and family. Set small daily goals and congratulate yourself for accomplishing them. For example, you may think, ‘Today I finished laundry, so my children will have clean clothes to wear tomorrow.’
2) Tell your children the truth
Explain what’s happening without minimizing or exaggerating the facts. Be honest, but use age-appropriate words. Children are perceptive: they can tell if you’re lying or are more worried than you admit.
Tell them you’re doing everything possible to keep them safe. You might want to explain COVID-19 is a virus, noting how it’s spread and why staying home and washing our hands can help keep everyone safe.
Avoid associating the virus to a particular country, nationality or group to prevent stigma or discrimination.
3) Be conscious of information your children access
Although you should be truthful with your children, avoid overexposure to the media. Find a healthy balance of information from a trustworthy source and talk about fake news. When it comes to younger children, be mindful of what you say to other adults when they’re around. Remember they’re listening and learning.
4) Create a routine and schedule
Routines give children stability. Knowing what’s going to happen helps them understand and adjust to their environment. It gives them a sense of control and time to learn more about their surroundings.
If it’s possible, simulate their school routine. If not, a simple wake-up time, breakfast, playtime, bath and homework time could work, as long as they can anticipate what’s going to happen next.
5) Expect minor behavioural changes in your children
Our children’s routine and environment have changed, and it’s hard for them to be isolated at home when they’re active, curious and full of energy. Their behaviour may change.
Be mindful children will mirror your emotions, too. If you react with anger or panic, your child will likely react the same way. And, in the case of an older child or teen, they may assume the role of caregiver if adults don’t seem to have the situation under control. That’s burdening them with stress they’re not ready to carry.
6 ) Help your children stay virtually connected to their social network
Older children and teens create a bond with their peers, and empathy grows stronger as they develop. Allow them space to connect with their friends or help others by spreading messages of health-prevention and/or volunteering where it’s safe. Of course, younger children will miss their friends, too, so try to keep them virtually connected, if you can.
For many children this pandemic has infringed on their right to thrive and be healthy. Studies show most violence against children happens at home. And, as unemployment increases and food security is put at risk, children are exposed to hunger, child labour, irregular migration, human trafficking and other forms of exploitation.
At Children Believe, we’re responding to this crisis through the provision of hygiene and food kits. We’re also sharing health and violence-prevention messages with families through local radio, TV and media campaigns. That includes sharing these tips for children and families during a crisis.
You can help, too. Visit childrenbelieve.ca/COVID to donate today.