Welcome to The Mummylogues. A series dedicated to candid conversations, relatable tips and resources for navigating through pregnancy and motherhood.
This edition features aspiring psychotherapist, Aanandita Vaghani, talking through the most effective ways to educate the young about COVID, while still keeping the light shining for them at the end of the dark tunnel.
Protecting your cubs? Covering your child’s ears every time the news comes on? Blind folding them from the headlines? You’re not alone.
Amidst the pandemic no one thought they and their children would have to encounter in their lifetimes, parental stress has soared. And while it is natural to try and protect your young, COVID coverage is bound to seep into your child’s awareness given social media, and inevitable snippets from adult conversations as they work from home.
There is no right formula to ace when it comes to talking to your children about the chaos that surrounds them, but there is a balance to be found.
Talking about COVID in Child-Friendly Terms
The first step is simply to converse with your child and find out how much they already know about the crisis, and what their worries are about living amidst the uncertainty. From here on, you can fill in the gaps. An effective yet fun way to do this is finding coloring books online which are approachable resources to educate children about what the virus looks like, feels like, and acts like. Here’s an accessible, cost-free resource you can use to your advantage: https://www.mindheart.co/descargables
- Hold space for your children’s feelings. COVID has been a collective loss. Of seeing friends, being at work, attending social events. This feeling extends to your children too, who have lost out on school time, outdoor play time and playdates. Feeling a sense of loss and grief is natural and you should encourage conversations about how they are feeling.
- Know that you don’t have to have all the answers This is one of the few situations where you know just about as much as your child does. You don’t need to have all the answers. Instead, perhaps you and your child can come up with a list of questions to send to a health provider to show that you’re comfortable with opening up to the possibility of knowing more about the pandemic and not avoiding it.
- Emphasise that these changes are temporary. Just as we crave agency, children too crave a sense of control. Although outings are limited, setting a routine (a general flow for the day) will establish a sense of structure and safety, similar to ticking-to-do-lists and lending a feeling of accomplishment.
- Share family stories about difficult times for them to hold on to, which will reassure them that they can cope effectively.
Activities TO BRING A SENSE OF STABILITY
Child chores. Reinstate a sense of responsibility and give children agency through chores. Assign them ‘daily duties’ such as plant watering, pillow-poofing, book-arranging. This will give them something to occupy themselves, but also something to look forward to about each day of the week.
Pursuing passions: School has never been out through winter, spring and summer, and while that is your working parent-nightmare come true, it is a positive for your childrens’ passions. This is a great time to explore what your children are interested in that may have been missed through the academic year. Is it learning about Space? Dinosaurs? Robots? Do some online shopping and seek out toy and book libraries to foster their interest further while you sharpen those quarantine baking skills.
When in doubt, dance it out! When stress ensues, it is endorphins to the rescue! Set some time for your children to dance to their favorite movie or cartoon tunes. Have a family dance party every Friday night and share some happiness in the midst of hopelessness. The bonus? You get to sleep in peace as their energy levels hit back-to-normal.
Play,Play,Play. Your work-from-home is your child’s play-from-home. The language of children is essentially, toys. Be creative with this. It might mean making a magic COVID concoction to combat the impact, or creating a COVID rescue squad from a team of figurines. Just about anything to help express, and not suppress the natural anxiety that engulfs them.
Zoom Play Dates. Of course, a whole lot of play is social interaction and one way you can simulate this in your home environment is through zoom-play dates. You can encourage parallel play while on camera, and also supplement this with online games. There will never be a time in your life you’ll feel less guilty about screen time.
Uplift their spirits
The only realm in which you want to be positive right now is your child’s news intake! You might not be able to block out all the negatives, but you sure can amplify the feel good factors.
View uplifting movies, cartoons, listen to happy-tunes and make your home-atmosphere as warm and happy, as childhood deserves to feel like. Make sure you highlight the positive news in the world too- how communities are coming together to support each other, the selfless spirit of frontline workers. Maybe even get them involved by writing thank you letters and cards to first responders of the crisis.
Self Care is Child Care
As a parent you might tend to put your needs last, but this is really a time to have all the time and space you need to process your emotions too. Set up an SOS contact for when you need some alone time. This could be a spouse or family member. Remember- you need to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others!
Aanandita Vaghani is an aspiring psychotherapist, currently pursuing her Masters in Mental Health and Wellness Counseling at New York University. Psychology has always held a special place in her heart, be it as an academic major or as an experiential interest she has further gotten to explore at clinical settings that dealt with mood and anxiety disorders. She is especially interested in working with children, and has conducted a research study at Play Smart Educational Library, to gain further insight into the integral role of play and toys in child development.
Aside from her interest in unraveling the mysteries of the human brain, Aanandita is enthusiastic about food, and enjoys creating her own recipes drawing from the food she has been lucky to relish from around the globe.