You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them—Maya Angelou
That word evokes fear, trepidation and a lot of anxiety. The covid-19 pandemic has spread over 210 nations across the globe in the last 5 months. As we read the news daily for updates about cases and flattening the spread of its transmission, I am left wondering what about the effects of the pandemic on children?
The health professionals have stated that covid-19 is less prevalent and critical around children and adolescents, yet they are seriously impacted by the disruptions to “normal” lives, separation from family members, social distancing, quarantines, lockdowns, school closures, illness among family members (if any), and all of the additional stress that has been accruing during this period.
We need to understand that children are particularly susceptible to the emotional and psychological impact of covid-19 due to their desire for security and comfort. Their inability to comprehend fully what has been taking place all across the world is also another issue. Given their need for security and comfort in the world, their difficulty conceptualizing the actual impact of what a health pandemic entails is also an additional issue.
At the moment, our medical professionals are stretched thin caring for our folks who are ill due to the covid-19 pandemic. Children are spending a lot more time with their parents, most of whom aren’t well versed in child development and don’t know how to respond to their children’s reactions during this unprecedented period. It would be beneficial to society as a whole to increase the ability to know how to deal with children’s emotional and behavioral reactions to the covid-19 pandemic.
It’s so easy to dismiss their emotional needs. This was the most apparent to me when I listened to children react to the fact that they would have no physical school until the situation improves which is an indefinite time (some schools in my state; Lagos, Nigeria, have estimated September; other nations say after June) At the moment, they are learning online or through the radio or TV. Comments from children that I have interacted with have been like the following statements;
“Learning is boring without my friends.” A lot of the children that I speak to declare with a lot of indignation and anxiety.
“When will a cure for this coronavirus be found?” From conversations like these, it is obvious that children miss socializing with their peers.
We are keeping children who are healthy and energetic in lockdown situations in their homes. They hear and see news about the pandemic across the globe. Their parents discuss it with each other or while having conversations over calls to their friends. They listen to their parents ruminate on the increasing possibility of a recession. They have less physically active and interact less socially with others..
How do we support our children with their current delicate emotional states?
- Be direct about discussing their feelings about the pandemic:
I have been working with children for over twenty years now and I have to confess that I actually enjoy talking to children more than adults. They can be overwhelming, the amount of energy that they exude but beyond that, they never fail to astonish me with the depths to which they ponder about the world that they live in. They always make me think. I know to never ever dismiss the emotions and thoughts that children have.
I have learned best from them and have come to realize that it is beneficial for both the children and adults to allow them express their feelings.
Ignore sweeping statements like- “At least you are safe, there are people dying all over the world”
“You should be happy that you have something to eat, there are hungry people who would wish to be you.”
Just listen to them and don’t worry about always having to proffer solutions. Acknowledge the fact that they trusted you to share how they feel and look for something positive that they have been doing in handling the situation.
“I like how you understand that I have zoom meetings or work calls. You help me focus on doing what is important with everything that is going on.“
- Emphasize structure for children:
Schools are striving to keep students learning via various mediums. Schools are trying their best to conduct lessons through online mediums. It is up to parents and guardians to provide structure and discipline to the children as schools are unable to oversee these at the moment. Underscore that some level of normalcy is observed, wearing regular clothes, not keeping late hours and not spending all of their time on social media. They should pursue some creative endeavors also. Hold them accountable for these. My experience with children is that they need structure to thrive; there should be some flexibility due to recent events but their learning and timetables shouldn’t be allowed to go to total disarray, this leaves them confused.
- Touch them:
Children love hugs, kisses and pats on the back. These bodily gestures impart positive, calming effects on their minds. During this period, indulge them more. Find little opportunities to hold them and reassure them. This in turn would make them emotionally stronger.
What we do during this situation can make or mar them in the upcoming weeks, months and years to come.
Be mindful of their emotional and mental health.
Adetola Salau; Global Educator / International Speaker / Author/ Social Entrepreneur/ Innovative Thinker/Future Readiness Advocate/ STEM Certified Trainer
She is an Advocate of STEM Education and is Passionate about Education reform. She is an innovative thinker and strives for our society & continent as a whole to reclaim its greatness.
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