COVID-19 and Child Engagement

As we all are globally trying to take every kind of possible precautions to protect our self, our families, our communities from coronavirus disease spread, there is this important role of children, in which they could also contribute, by learning the ways how we could be in safe; they could learn the importance of keeping the body in a hygienic manner, which will help the children in overcoming the fear of coronavirus spread and contribute their effort to work on its precautions. We as parents/ guardians/caregiver we need to give them a key message that we are able enough to fight with such situations, we may reassure them by briefing every detail which we doing and how much it's needed to do, like the importance of sanitization, sanitizer, disinfectants, etc. as age-appropriate manner we have to make their understanding clear and add as per needed and practicing in day to day living.  Which eventually can become welcoming, respectful, inclusive, and supportive to all.

In this parents and guardian plays the vital role for this, as significant figure sharing the accurate information and science-based facts about the COVID-19 which will help clear their fear and misunderstanding about the viral disease, besides helping them to support their abilities to cope with such if the present situations turn in secondary consequences in their own or in their surroundings. Having a very simple daily/weekly routine and following them as much as possible way.

While giving information related to COVID-19, we need to consider their age, their emotional status, and how much empowered they want to be, as well through which the child could get and relate the provided information on their living by maintaining their wellness in optimum, knowing bit of stress is okay to have with us and others as we processed to handle it.

  • For the children of 3 to 5years,  as they are the preschool children we need to focus on communicating good health behaviors, such as covering their mouths while coughing and sneezing with the elbow and washing hands. One of the best ways to keep children safe from coronavirus spread and other diseases is to simply encourage regular handwashing, for at least 20 seconds. It doesn't need to be scary and doing this practice altogether and enjoying the process, that’s the benefit of it. While doing, children also need rewards by washing their hands in frequent manner.
  • For the children of 6 to 13 years, we need to have extra patience in making sure to listen to them and answer their concerns as much as possible considering their age. Appropriate ways and we also need to give feedback as the age-related manner, we shouldn’t need to feed all those information which we listen and see in all those social media misleading, false, and wrong rumors.  As they were the primary level students of today’s generations so we need to validate their feeling and listening there any discomfort, expressing our own discomfort will help them to know that these are the normal reactions in these abnormal situations. Encouraging the children to do any house stuff to have a scene of contribution in making the home hygienic and how we were prepared to fight against the disease, emphasizing that they could do a lot more to keep themselves and others safe during this period of time; For example, introduce the concept of social distancing (standing further away from friends, avoiding large crowds, not touching people if they don’t need to, etc.). Also, focus on good health behaviors, such as covering coughs and sneezes with the elbow and washing hands. Helping children understand the basic concepts of disease prevention and control how we preventing and controlling it, our tiny habits which we practice in our daily living and we could also use exercises that demonstrate how germs can spread. For example, we can put colored water (turmeric water) in a spray bottle and spray it on an of white surface/paper, then observe how far the droplets travel and we may also demonstrate the benefits and proper ways of washing hands for 20 seconds with soap and water.
  • For the children of 14 to 15years, we need to make sure to listen enormously about their concerns questions and answering in fact and evidence-based manner will work for Lower secondary school level children. Emphasizing that they can do a lot more to keep themselves and others safe while they are in lockdown periods, these days learning hygienic patterns will be the lifelong lesions, this age group is known so much about these conditions and we need to encourage if there any things we could encourage to confront and prevent to control and any such stigmatized issues concerning the present COVID-19 pandemic, we need to have precautions and having too much pressure is a very wrong practice to fight against this. while talking with people we need to consider about our words and being polite and what will happen if we misuse the words and how to be ready for coping the emergency situation from our side without hurting the others, even the minor misinterpretation will act so negatively for our surrounding, we need to make social distancing not emotional and behavioral, even though we were far apart but we were united to fight this with patience and being in the home. Proving the space for brief learning about the virus via every possible reliable media and discussing the fact of how it’s going to control and what other agencies are working day and night to overcome these emergency situations. And having a simple and effective daily scheduled plan is vital because it will organize the time which we find difficult to tackle.
  • For the children of 16 to 18 years, this age group is much aware of every tit and bit about concerns pandemic and they seem advising their parents and guardians about proper and right ways what strategies we need to follow and how we overcome through this, they do have media literacy and we also find them engaging in internet searching different research, we do need to consider their ideas and making them part on stepping every step which we perform. Communicating, confronting our real suffering and providing them space to do so, trusting the process of fighting how we doing so like washing hands and sneezing and coughing etiquette, by staying at home and enjoying every day by sharing and being together with everyone by possible ways even though we were maintaining the social distancing, connecting through others means and media. Rewarding them about their contribution in every means and how much their efforts and concerns were helping each and everyone in the family.

So, here we are in the uncertainty about the extension or slowly relaxation in scenario of lockdown model, and even if it opens it probably could take a bit longer too, to be as it used to be the situation as earlier; and we need to have patience about all this after all these precautions were for prevention of disease as much as possible. Besides, in this present situation, we need to practice the good habits, and for this firstly the role played and displayed by us as a role model we need to be very careful because our each and every minor habit are continuously under the surveillance of our children, children are observing and recording our actions, therefore, we have to be nice externally and needs to feel good internally. That’s how the external act will be displaced as preferable for all of us. Maintaining the togetherness with each other in such a manner where learning and sharing the things among one another never ends.

We know a smile is contagious trying to spread it with each other and especially with children they are naturally expert in copying us. This time is not easy for all of us. We are in-home since long, so our desires and demand may increase, we need to make them know about the scarcity of several things, availability due to controlled mobility, and all of our needs to be happy whatever we do have at present; we have to be happy what we can afford now in terms of foods variety, quality, quantity. If we try to make children's demands clear as earlier by making them crystal clear that we can’t fulfill all their will right now, children can get convinced, only we need to make things visible to them. These things need to be discussed among the family as we early noted that making children participated in house handling discussion, valuing their thought, feeling, and ideas, and working as possible but making the situation clear, what we can and what we cant. Engaging all family members in some chore of work, asking the children to help whatever they can do to even the peeling off the garlic while cooking will count much. Working on a daily schedule and improving the flaws a bit at every possible chance- will make our living at this difficult time quite easier, sharing feelings, complimenting each other, planning about the meal, what to cook and how cook and making some sort of art being engaging in anything like drawing, painting, origami any things which children’s enjoy to have, these were very basic, common and practical practices which we can do during this time, we just need to make our children participate and get involved in another side of living unless we don’t create any environment, little things also seem difficult and children also don’t give any importance to any things besides engaging in the screen of television, mobile, laptop, IPad, etc.

This is the crucial time we all are suffering from this, but for parents/guardians/caregivers it is also the vital time to make our children engage in any fruitful task, teaching them good habits, making them known about the art of living.

Sukeerti Devkota
Psychosocial Counselor