PARENTING IN A PANDEMIC: Stay calm, explain the facts and bond with your children


By Shareen Ratnani

We have been thrown into an anxiety producing situation with the coronavirus – an unprecedented experience faced by parents with varied emotions. With school closures, social disruption and fear of the unknown, the task of looking after young children and keeping them engaged at home can be daunting for some parents. Juggling between work and keeping children engaged at home can pose a challenge to many young parents. So let me share a few tips which maybe helpful at this time.

  1. BEING OPEN AND HONEST WITH CHILDREN: Children are suddenly surrounded by  people wearing masks, TV programs dominated with news about the corona virus and parents restricting them from their usual activities. This is the time to explain to children in simple language that the corona virus is just like the flu. Children have experienced symptoms of flu at some point in their lives and it is best to explain that the Corona virus is similar to the flue except that it spreads very quickly and doctors are still finding a medicine that can cure it. Instead of creating fear and anxiety in children, explain facts in simple language and answer all the questions they have.
  2. ROUTINES: Hand washing is no longer an option. Show your children how to wash their hands with soap, warm water and time ! The best way to do this is to sing a song that lasts for 20 seconds and let your child extend the hand washing till the end of the song or rhyme. Play hand washing games and use different fragrances of hand-washing soap to keep your little one excited to anticipate the routine. Make it consistent ! Make sure you are drinking water frequently and let your child model this habit. Create a fun water station where every member of the family keeps their own water bottle: this is a great visual reminder for little ones to drink water .
  3. MONITOR WHAT YOU AND YOUR CHILDREN SEE ON TV AND SOCIAL MEDIA: Most importantly watch how you react to this ! I think everyone is chalked by panic but to get hysterical and reactive about it in front of your child may cause them anxiety. Anxiety can become the root of various other misbehavior.  Monitor what scenes you maybe exposing your child to on TV or social media and refrain from reacting in panic or fear  because children are social learners and will absorb your fear. Stay calm and stop inundating yourself with everything negative about the Corona virus . Be positive as  this is the time your children are watching you and learning how to cope with a global crisis !
  4. SOCIAL DISTANCING APPLIES TO CHILDREN  TOO: With the Corona virus spreading  extensively through a  possible hidden web of infections, it is our own social responsibility to  stay away from  crowded places in order to avoid contracting the virus. The best way to try and contain the infection is to stay home and away from the transmission chain as much as possible. If your children miss their friends, set up a skype-date with their friends . Children may not get sick with the Corona virus but they can be carriers of the virus. Young children love to explore every surface they touch and perhaps it is best to restrict their exposure to public  surfaces for now.
  5. NEW WAYS TO GREET:As part of a non-contact way of greeting , explain to children how handshakes and hi-fives can be replaced with elbow bumps , foot shakes and other cultural non-contact greetings such as the Indian Namaste and the Japanese bow.
  6. GET CREATIVE:Instead of just rushing to the supermarket to hoard foodstuff and essentials, make a trip to a bookstore or a hobby shop and stock up on some books and art and craft materials for your child. Children are engaged when activities are stimulating, innovative and fun.

Try one of these simple activities as you bond with your child:

  • Get into the kitchen with them and invent some delicious sandwiches or bake together
  • Get a canvas and paint ‘ Corona’ together for a keepsake
  • Spring cleaning :Talk about the importance of hygiene and let them clean their own book racks and shoe cubbies or get together and wipe their toys with a child-safe disinfectant.
  • Yoga and mindfulness:  From dinosaur yoga, laughing yoga and breathing exercises: YouTube has a plethora of resources you can use to practice calmness with your child
  • Family games : Bring back your own childhood and some extra adrenaline with Hide and Seek, Hopscotch,  tic-tac-toe and more
  • Storytelling : Become your child’s favorite story teller : tell them stories from your life that taught you lessons and share some of your fun experiences with your child.
Girl with her drawing of the Virus
Girl with her drawing of the Virus

As you stay home with your children, instead of inundating yourself with social media forwards, remember to bake the cake you have always wanted to, fill your child’s cup of attention, cuddle together as you read a story  and enjoy parenting without a defined agenda !