As the second wave of Covid-19 subsides in India and we start gearing up for the next wave, the most worrying news being circulated around has been the susceptibility of children to the third wave of the pandemic. As parents, we’re all worried. While children have been the epitome of resilience and adaptability. Online learning, lack of access to public parks, indoor activities have changed their world as they knew it overnight. What is most worrying is their mental health after almost two years of being home during the pandemic. KelpHR as a part of our mental wellness initiatives which are part of our Employee Assistance Programs, organized a session by Bhoomika Halemane, Psychologist, Social Worker, Applied Theatre Trainer. She spoke to our CEO and Co-founder, Smita Shetty Kapoor on “How to Help Children Cope with Stress caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Here are some of the tips Bhoomika gave us:
1. How to Recognize if your child is in stress
- a. Physiological symptoms: What to look out for?
- i) Sweating, pain
- ii) Sleep issues
- iii) Concentration problems
- iv) Feeling scared all the time
- v) Eating issues
- vi) Stomach & headaches
- b. Avoiding or withdrawing from situations, objects or people that bring on anxious feelings.
- i) Refusing to do some activities that other children of their age feel comfortable and confident doing.
- ii) Throwing tantrums
- c. Seeking reassurance from adults
- i) “What’s going to happen?” or
- ii) “What are we going to do if … happens?”
- d. Adjusting to new norms
- i) Online learning dynamics
- ii) Social isolation
- ii) Unlearning routine and everyday activities
- iv) Limited exposure to social life
- v) No physical movement
- vi) Confined spaces
- vii) No age-appropriate conversations
- viii) Improper channeling of emotions & energy
- 2. Parent’s responsibility
- i) Listen to your child when they talk to you about their experience of anxiety
- ii) Don’t dismiss their feelings and acknowledge the same.
- ii) Ask the right questions
- i) “What do you think might happen?”
- ii) “What did you do when you got worried?”
- iii) Tell them about your anxious behaviors so that they don’t feel alone
- 3. Communicating about Covid
- a. Addressing fears
- i) Give enough time and space for the child to express their feelings
- ii) Encourage questions
- iii) Share facts in a non-threatening manner
- iv) Share with others who interact with your child about how much information has been shared with the child and to maintain the same.
- v) Validate their existing information – correct if they are wrong and add missing information
- b. Age-appropriate communication
- i) Talk to your child at their level, using words they will understand.
- ii) Filter information according to their age
- iii) Although babies and toddlers can’t understand what’s happening, they do notice changes in your behavior and the quality of time spent with you. Make sure to give enough attention.
- iv) Primary school children should be given enough info and filter out info that might cause fear.
- v) Demonstrate how they can be safe from the virus by using their toys
- vi) Explain how they’re helping stop the virus by not going to the park or attending family events, and appreciate their effort
- vii) Instil hope by talking about how everybody is helping in their own ways and that the situation will change soon
- viii) Sometimes, it’s wiser to distract them with something in the vicinity if they repeatedly feel anxious. Make sure that they don’t feel you’re avoiding the conversation.
- i) Tell them that it’s okay to talk about difficult times
- ii) Ask them how they’re coping with the pandemic
- Let them know that it’s okay for them to talk to you when they are stressed
- iv) Set up a support network (other family members or family friends) whom they trust.
- v) Learn about motivation stories of human courage and resilience and discuss the learning outcomes.
- vi) Inform them about fake news and rumours.
- vii) Teach them scientific temper and ways to verify news.
- 4. Support your children
- a. Be a role model
- i) Stop spending time on your phone in front of your kid.
- ii) Invite them to join your exercise routine
- iii) Invite them to mimic you with toys and pretend/play as you do house chores
- b. Acknowledge their feelings and tell them that it’s normal to be anxious
- c. Reward systems
- i) Praise them by acknowledging their efforts
- ii) Do not bribe them
- d. Use distractions
- e. Spend quality time and engage in playtime
- f. Limit reassurance to avoid your child being trapped in a cycle of anxiety and assurance.
- 5. Develop a childcare plan
- a. Develop a healthy routine
- b. Limit screen time – We know its difficult to do but here are some tips.
- i) Set expectations & indications of how long they can watch – “You can watch this for 30 minutes.”
- ii) Decide what they can do after – “Okay, you can watch this episode now, but after this, you will have to eat food”.
- iii) Announce a 5-minute closing alert.
- iv) Do not threaten, bribe or limit access – this will only make them more aggressive and demanding.
- c. Set up a time every day to video call family members who are away from home
- d. Set up virtual play time with friends. Reach out to their parents and explain the need for your children to keep in touch.
- e. Help them develop a new skill
- f. Set up and display a timetable and teach them how to follow the time table and talk to you about their day. Reward them with a treat every time they do this.
- 6. Develop a self-care plan
- a. Identify your signs of stress and your reactions
- b. What are your coping mechanisms? Is it helping you?
- c. Do you have a support system when in distress?
- d. What changes can you make in the interest of your child
- 7. General tips for parents
- i) Avoid accessing news when your child is around
- ii) Increase your affection towards your child
- iii) Never ignore them, irrespective of whether you feel it’s a trivial matter.
- 8. Channelize their energy
- Ci) Children have truck loads of energy and it is important for us to recognize and engage them in activities that releases their energy levels from time to time
- ii) Set realistic expectations and goals for them to get activated
- iii) Design indoor games that are both physical and reflective in nature
- iv) Give them small tasks every day to ensure accountability
- v) Let them make mistakes
- vi) Engage their sensory perception
- 9. Talk About your
- i) Struggles, challenges
- ii) Fear & frustrations
- iii) This encourages them to have open communication channels
- iv) Also encourages them to open up and share their problems
For more on our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) offerings and to customize an offering suitable for your employees, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at +91-9500129652.
To watch the session by Bhoomika on the impact of Covid-19 on Children’s mental health, do check out the Youtube video