The past couple of weeks has seen Kenyans subjected a variety of changes to their lifestyles, routines and daily habits. It began with government directives on self – quarantine and social – distancing before later on culminating into school closures and now a national curfew. All this is more than enough to overwhelm the most experienced of adults. It therefore comes as no surprise that this uncertainty could be a source of great stress and anxiety to young children.
As a parent, you always want to provide your child with a safe environment in which they can grow and thrive in health. All of a sudden, there’s no guarantee that you can do this. This article is designed to help you talk to your child about the COVID – 19 virus.
Here are some steps you can take to help your kids cope:
- Remain calm. Your children are always watching. They will look to you for clues about how to react to the situation. Take time to remind them that how they feel right now is OK, and encourage a hopeful outlook for the future.
- Limit access to news. With Facebook, Twitter and 24 hour live Tv, there may be times of constant news about COVID-19 that may heighten fears about the disease. Limit reading, hearing or watching the news. Also limit social media use that may expose your kids to rumors and fake news. Be cautious about discussing the news and your fears in front of your kids.
- Keep to a routine. Keep or create new routines for your family. Set a time for all of you to wake up and engage in activities such as learning, physical exercise, family meal times, cleaning & chores, relaxation and bedtimes. Such a timetable helps kids predict what’s planned, allowing them to feel control of their environment. Stick a paper on the wall to display a daily schedule at home. Checking off tasks can encourage a sense of accomplishment.
- Have fun together and creatively. Encourage activities that your kids enjoy, such as puzzles, coloring, reading books that they have brought home from school and singing songs. Create opportunities for family time. Play games with your kids, have them join in on cooking family meals and enjoy home movie nights.
- Avoid placing blame. Be careful not to blame specific people, including those in a cultural, racial or ethnic group for coronavirus. Your children listen to everything and can pick up such biases.
- Enjoy virtual socializing. Connect with friends and family members using phone calls and WhatsApp video. This can help to avoid feeling isolated and can build and maintain relationships.
- Seek advice if necessary. If you notice persistent problems with sleep, changes in eating habits or difficulty concentrating on ordinary daily tasks, or if your kids have a persistent sense of hopelessness, excessive sadness or overwhelming worry, contact your doctor or a mental health professional for advice.
Through our this entire time, engage your kids in continuous conversation about the precautions they can take to stay safe such as hand washing, avoiding unnecessary physical contact and staying indoors. You can make educating your child a fun exercise that you do together daily. Remember, for the child to learn these habits, you need to repeat them frequently.
Dr. Noah Akala, MD
Public Health Specialist.