Supporting Children through the
The year 2020 has certainly been one for the books. It has been eventful, memorable and will go down in history as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic began in China and was flagged as a huge potential problem in December 2019. Though it was not declared a pandemic or a worldwide issue until earlier in the year of 2020. By that time countries across the world were feeling the effects of the deadly virus. By April 2020, nearly three hundred thousand people worldwide had lost their lives. A devasting amount of people have already died from the pandemic, as well, the world economy has crashed and countries are spending billions to help their citizens cope from the devastation however I can not help but think of the deeper issues we can not see; anxiety, trauma, isolation, and the huge impact this has on the already vulnerable population.
From the adults who lost their jobs to those who lost even more such as family members, COVID-19 has become the ‘new norm’ in our conversation circles for all people across the nation. Social distancing has been declared mandatory for many months which means isolation and trauma are now secondary effects of this pandemic. Those who have lost family or friends during this uncertain time are not allowed to have proper funerals because of social distancing. Parents have now become their child’s teacher overnight and all have been ordered to stay home, self-isolate, just as the weather was finally starting to warm up. Confusion, worry and uncertainty have been common words we see on social media, in the news, and in daily government updates. Just as the virus itself, this type of secondary impact is not bias to whom it affects, but it touches all.
As parents begin to feel pressure from all the new and changing responsibilities, their children also feel the energy of change. Nothing is the same since COVID-19 began. “As countries introduce measures to restrict movement as part of efforts to reduce the number of people infected with COVID-19, more and more of us are making huge changes to our daily routines” (WHO, 2020). These changes can have both positive and negative effects on our mental health. As we know, mental health is also very much connected to our physical well being and this can cause even greater issues as time goes on, if mental health is not addressed.
Some ways parents can help support their children during COVID-19 is to let minor things go. “Routines, schedules, school, how we interact, everything has shifted we must allow ourselves to let some things go” (Fadol. 2020). This means if they only do 2 hours of schooling a day instead of four, it is ok. If they want to sit in the backyard for a school day and play in the sun, this isn’t an issue. We can also help them by creating schedules. Though children are no longer permitted to attend school traditionally, they are still encouraged to do homeschooling for the time being until things settle. When we allow our children to function without a schedule, we can be doing more damage than good. “Though children may not say to us “I want a schedule” having one helps keep balance, certainty, and routine. This greatly helps our mental health (Fadol. 2020).
Outdoor activities such as family walks, eating outside or having ‘drive-by birthday parties’ can also help our children’s mental health. Staying connected by using Skype, or other facetime options is a good way for children to safely stay in contact with their peers during this time that may become increasingly stressful for them. Children may be feeling isolated and that can create anxiety.
The amount of information we allow our children to hear is also our responsibility. “Though it is good, to be honest with our children and tell them age-related information regarding COVID-19, limiting their exposure to social media and newscasts is critical to keeping their mental health in check” (Fadol. 2020). Keeping them relatively in the loop, yet as minimally as possible can be a balancing act but is a critical one.
Just as we have been taken off guard with this pandemic, so are our children. They are looking to us for guidance. How we react and behave as parents will have a tremendous effect on them later when things return to normal. Having a “Staying home to be safe” rather than a “We must be at home” attitude will be the difference of outcome when it comes to their resilience. While embracing the moments we have with our children, involving them in daily chores, cooking together, schedules, game nights and meal times will encourage them to see this pandemic as a time of positive change rather than devasting times. Remember, it is up to us as parents to be a soft place for children to land. May we create a sanctuary within our homes, even in times of great uncertainty.
May. 17. 2020.
Fadol, M. (2020, May). Supporting Children During Covid-19.
World Health Organization. (2020, May 12). Retrieved from https://www.who.int/