Returning to "normalcy" and children - 14 tips on what parents can do
Article: Panagiota Efstathiou, Registered School / Educational Psychologist and member of the group of volunteer psychologists of the province of Famagusta and volunteer in the line of psychological support "Together We Can"
After several days of confinement in our homes, the time has come for many parents to return to work, many businesses to reopen and the gradual lifting of the traffic ban. Of course, it is possible that the schools will open soon. And all of us, young and old, are called to go back to a reality that is not so familiar to us and which will require us to adjust our lifestyle and many habits from our daily lives.
One of the most difficult roles in the current situation is that of the parent who, amidst the changes he has experienced and the multiple roles he has taken on, has been called upon to explain to his child what is happening and to help him adjust. The fact that, based on the analyzes of scientists, the mockery seems to be in our lives for a long time, leads us to the conclusion that our life will not return immediately to its "normality", since we will continue to adhere to many of the measures. physical distancing and personal hygiene. Therefore, parents will once again be called upon to help their children incorporate these measures into their lives until they become accustomed to them. So what can parents do to help their children adjust to the situation as smoothly as possible?
It is clarified that the following suggestions concern this new period that we are going through with the gradual lifting of the measures taken by the government and possibly the period after the lifting of all measures, if the presence of the virus in Cyprus continues to exist even in very small percentages. It is also important to note that due to the constant developments in the field of coronary artery, some of the points in this article may no longer apply. THESuggestions to parents are:
If you haven't talked to your child about coronavirus yet, it's a good idea to talk to them or use some of the fairy tales and guides offered for free online, depending on their level of knowledge.
It is also a good idea to prepare children for the measures that will be taken in schools (when they become known). Depending on your child's cognitive level, explain the changes that will be made (for example, children may have to sit leaving distances between them) so that they are better prepared.
Keep in mind that your goal is not to terrorize the child, but to provide him with enough information. The right information is power.
If the child has any questions, listen carefully and give simple answers, without lies, without false promises, without frightening him with unnecessary details and always keeping in mind his level of knowledge. If you do not know the answer to a question, then tell the child that you do not know. It's not bad sometimes not to have all the answers.
Let the child express his feelings freely. Remember that we do not judge the feelings of children (nor adults), we just help them express them in healthy ways. If a child expresses concern, then try to reassure him or her and calm him down (but do not make promises that you cannot control). For example, you can remind the child that all family members are together in this situation, remind him of times when the family overcame an obstacle and tell him that this is something that you will all go through together.
Some children are expected to express anxiety, depending on their temperament. They may not express it directly, but indirectly in various ways. The important thing is for the parents to be by their side, to show empathy and to think of ways in which the child and themselves can relax, such as making handicrafts, playing or going for a walk. If your child has extensive anxiety that interferes with their functioning, it is best to consult a specialist.
It's a good idea to explain some hygiene rules to children and then help them make them part of their daily routine. Regarding the first part of this presentation, you can show the children some videos, read them a story, play a game with them or do an "experiment" (* at the end of the article an example of an experiment will be mentioned), which will show the importance of following the rules of hygiene. Regarding the second part of this presentation, you can be an example that will emulate your children. You can also, if they have difficulty remembering and assimilating what you have said, give them some reminders (for example, that we wash our hands before eating or that when we cough we can do it on our elbow or on a piece of paper that we will throw away). . If a child does not remember the rules, do not argue. Remember that our goal is for children to understand the importance of maintaining good hygiene, but without being intimidated or overreacting to other problems.
Remind the child that he should try to remember these rules when he returns to school. Children certainly do not have the same self-control as adults, so when they return to school they are more likely to behave in exactly the same way they did before. However, by explaining them and reminding them of the rules as mentioned above, they will clearly be more careful.
Keep in mind that it is possible that something that may be self-evident for adults in this situation (eg we do not share the same food) may not be for children. So when explaining the rules of hygiene to them, it is a good idea to refer to various examples that may arise in the school environment.
Explain to your children what will apply from now on regarding physical distancing. For example, you might explain that although they may soon meet their grandparents or cousins who are so eager, it would be better not to have the hugs and kisses that existed before but to keep a distance. If the children are young and cannot easily perceive the distance, you can think of some practical ways to keep it, explain them in simple words and show them how to do it. One way could be for the two interlocutors facing each other to stretch out their arms and not touch each other.
Remember to justify to your children and explain why it is good for them to do what you tell them so that they do not sound like an order. For example, if the child usually washes his hands very quickly and you want him to learn to wash them more carefully, you can say, "Remember when you wash your hands, do it for about 20 seconds so that all the germs are killed."
When it comes to washing your hands, if your child is small and can't easily perceive time, then you can suggest that he sing a little song while washing his hands. It can be any song that the child knows or a variation of your own of a well-known song that also refers to hand washing (eg "I wash my two hands, I wash them").
If children need to be in places where the use of a mask is mandatory or recommended (eg at school), then it would be helpful to explain again to the children the importance of using it. In the case of young children, you can play some games with the mask, so that they get used to it and perceive this process as pleasant. For example, you can impersonate superheroes wearing masks, you can get masks with different children's designs, if you use fabric masks you can decorate them with the child, or you can see who can put on and take off the mask faster. (but first showing the right way).
Keep up the good content with your children by doing various activities and having fun. This precious time will relax you and strengthen your relationship. This will strengthen your children as well.
Some of the above suggestions may sound a little harsh to children, but I think it's time to realize that our lives won't be as we used to be. But we are positive and optimistic that we can cope with the new changes! It will now be part of our daily routine and will become a habit! Until the time comes when this pandemic will be a thing of the past. That's when we'll look back and remember how a virus brought ups and downs in our lives, how we managed to cope, and how it magically reminded us of the important things in life. Together we can and together we will succeed!
* Note: Example experiment. Put water and pepper in a bowl. Next to it we have another bowl with a little soap. We explain to the children that the tiny grains they see in the water are like germs. We put one of our fingers in the bowl with the water and the pepper and then we lift it so that the children can see how the "germs" stuck to our hand. Then we clean our hand with paper. Then we put our finger in the soap so that the tip of the finger is covered enough. Finally, just as our finger is covered with soap, we put it in the same way as before, in the bowl with the water and the pepper. Then all the grains are removed from the finger and do not stick to it. In this way, we can explain to our children the importance of soap and proper hand washing, which removes germs.
Registered School / Educational Psychologist (Registration Number: 541)
Member of the group of volunteer psychologists of the province of Famagusta and volunteer in the psychological support line "Together We Can"