There is a plethora of resources available during this time to help you and your family cope with the current pandemic. Most of these resources relating to managing stress have great similarities to common practices that have been tested time and time again and are scientifically supported. Stress can be internal or external; in this [...]


Help your children cope with COVID-19 lockdown


There is a plethora of resources available during this time to help you and your family cope with the current pandemic. Most of these resources relating to managing stress have great similarities to common practices that have been tested time and time again and are scientifically supported.

Stress can be internal or external; in this situation an external stress has affected the entire planet, namely COVID-19.

Like a domino effect, more and more countries are facing these challenges with awareness that we are all in it together. In this kind of set-up, we need to be mindful of our children’s needs. Here are some tips from experiences gained while working with children as a psychotherapist and from personal experience.

• Practise the art of reflection: By setting time daily to nurture yourself emotionally through quiet reflection, you as a parent will immensely benefit in the manner in which you perceive and connect with your children. There is only so much mental strength you have before you get to a point of burnout. So why not get a hold of your thoughts and process your feelings before the kids wake up?

Start the day by quietening your thoughts. Listen to the sounds around you, and tune your ears to nature or something pleasant. Meditate and engage in your spirituality and religious activities.  You will have inner calmness and strength to draw on as you face emotional ups and downs throughout the day.

Plan for recharging moments: Your body is similar to a car in that it runs on a type of energy. You top your car up and then run it; when you are out of energy, you refuel or re-charge again.

During this time of great despair, plan to have breaks; “recharging moments.” Even 5 minutes of quietness or stress management exercises can ease tension. Teach your children this as well. Practise the art of recharging daily!

Be mindful of Information Overload: Rather than finding out the latest news every hour, intentionally block time to do so. Since the news is full of harsh reality, reality that is now devastating, painful and traumatic, offset it with positivity, even though it may be difficult to do so. What if we substitute “recharging moments” instead of “moments on social media”? Your children will start imitating you and develop stronger coping skills to face challenges in life instead of being consumed and overloaded with the news. Be mindful of addictions to social media which is a topic of its own to discuss!

Empathic and consistent communication: Don’t hide information from children; instead, explain the COVID-19 pandemic to them in the most age-appropriate manner. Parents will know their children best and will have to tactfully share information.

We must demonstrate great empathy towards them as after all, it wasn’t too long ago, that they went to school and upon return, they were told that their “April” holidays would begin from “tomorrow onwards” because of a deadly virus. They had to go into urgent crisis mode with everyone else, completely cut off from their schools, classmates, friends, neighbours, relatives, outings, trips, parties, shopping, etc., overnight.  Therefore, I believe it is of utmost import that you extend as much grace towards them as you can manage, daily.

Facilitate emotional expressions: Expect your children to express a variety of emotions since they need outlets to express their feelings. Adults need to be aware of their own emotions first so that they can demonstrate patience and empathy when children are expressing theirs. Regulate their emotions through stress management techniques -(see box below).

Allow the grieving process: It is probably not an exaggeration to say that most of the world is grieving inside which is expressed in a variety of ways. It is important to recognize at what stage we are grieving so we can better understand our children. There could be denial, anger, anxiety, frustration, depression, fear, apathy, all of which can be part of the grieving process. The gravity of a pandemic is in the fear of the great unknown.  While you should be allowing time to grieve for you and your family, don’t let it consume you. Try not to allow yourself or your children to be stuck in negative emotional states as that will be detrimental to their mental wellbeing.

A helpful tip is to deliberately plan activities that will make them joyful. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate, perhaps a pinch of silliness here and there could do wonders for their day!

Expect varied behaviours from your children: Some youngsters express their feelings outwardly, while others inwardly and quietly; I am sure adults can relate to this as well. If we suppress feelings, these may be manifested at unexpected moments and at times in inappropriate ways. For instance, a child may suddenly start screaming for no apparent reason out of feelings of frustration of not being able to go outside or a child that has slept alone in his or her bed may be fearful and not feel safe to do so now.

Bedwetting, nail biting, fidgeting or twitching may be a few outward reactions. Others may show unexpected mood swings or have nightmares. Expect these as normal reactions to traumatic incidents; the COVID-19 pandemic may be affecting your child more than they have expressed or acknowledged.

It is important to encourage and lead your children in stress management activities daily so that they are able to regulate their emotions more effectively and cope better with adversity in the long term. If these behaviours are severe, and/or reoccurring for extended periods of time disrupting their daily functions, seek help with a mental health professional.

Depending on your child’s age, personality, resilience, protective factors and coping skills, he or she will react in different ways to the current crisis. Some children are less resilient than others and adults must be prepared to nurture children through their emotional and behavioural states. Be prepared.

Provide more attachment and attention: It is no secret that in times of distress, most humans need to find security and affirmation, and younger children will need more physical attention. While hugging and kissing is not encouraged during the COVID-19 pandemic, children maybe looking for warmth now more than ever before.

Use your discretion and best judgement with physical touch. If kissing your children is not appropriate, provide attachment in other ways: for instance high fives and pinky hugs with clean hands, where your pinky finger wraps around your child’s pinky or perhaps find them a favourite soft toy to hug. They need to know you are paying attention to them.

Be an excellent listener. Practise the art of tuning into their needs. These are the days they need the most attention from us, to feel a sense of security and familiarity in the middle of global chaos.

Balance their day and engage their minds: Be mindful about balancing educational experiences with social, emotional and spiritual ones. Pace their school work and lessons so they have fun while learning. The best kinds of learning happen when children move; according to neuroscience, movement and exercise increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain causing more alertness. Therefore, add movement to their educational experiences and allow them to have fun while doing their school work.

Plan for “thankful” moments: Positive thoughts evoke “feel good” chemicals in our brains, such as endorphin, oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine, which in turn aid in feeling calmer, happier and less anxious. The opposite is also true; when the brain perceives a threat or danger, cortisol is produced. While cortisol also known as the “stress” hormone has specific functions in our bodies, too much of it causes havoc and various complications.

Therefore, even in the midst of this crisis, plan for thankful moments. Teach your children to think and talk about what they are thankful for. Perhaps they can draw, paint or even write them down. You can collect these in a container and read them whenever you or your children are feeling down and out. Perhaps encourage them to memorize phrases from your religious books that can help them stay positive.

Be mindful of Cabin Fever: Prolonged times of staying in enclosed spaces can result in restlessness, apathy, depression, excessive sleep and anxiety. Movement is a great tool, in any form, whether it is in the form of stretching exercises or walking inside the house.

Provide parent-led choices: During times of pandemics and traumatic events, children feel helpless and powerless. There is very little that they can control and they observe that their parents have limited capabilities to make their lives normal again. Therefore, give them something to feel empowered about without always telling them what to do; it will give you a break too from micromanagement!

Balance routines with flexibility: Routines are greatly beneficial to keep children engaged in a sense of normalcy, however, having some flexibility is important over rigid routines and structure during this period of quarantine. We need to empower them to make decisions throughout the day, to plan, to set goals, to help, and to choose.

Schedule daily chores: Due to the present pandemic, adults are on a heightened state of alertness and can be physically and emotionally drained; Our children are watching our emotional status and need to support their parents. Schedule daily age appropriate chores for each member of your household.

Pay it forward: Encourage your children to give to others without expecting anything in return. Brainstorm ways to help others in need, whether it is to write letters to senior citizens who are lonely in Elders’ Homes, call relatives to cheer them up, or donate to community service agencies. If you have some

extra cash, would your family consider ordering a package to another in need?

(The writer is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker)

Practical steps to follow while at home
  • Provide them with structured activities to keep them busy
  • Keep to a daily routine as much as possible with plenty of room for flexibility
  • Encourage them to explore their spirituality and faith
  • Teach your children to pray for the needs of others
  • Encourage your children to make lists of what they are thankful for
  • Allow them to free play
  • Allow limited screen time with a balance of educational programmes and entertainment
  • Give them opportunities to interact with nature, either physically or virtually
  • Reduce exposure to the news and social media
  • Provide opportunities to be creative and express themselves-: Art, music, dance, writing, poetry, cooking, gardening, sewing, carpentry, building, etc.
  • Provide opportunities to move, whether outside or indoors, be creative.
  • Teach them to journal their thoughts (use an exercise book or diary if you have one)
  • Engage in family fun activities such as board games
  • Provide ways for your children to stay in community with classmates to the fullest extent possible
  • Teach them stress management techniques- (see box below)



De-stressing steps for entire family
The following techniques are helpful for the entire family!

Safe place (calm place): Close your eyes. Think of a place you have been to in the past that brings you feelings of relaxation. For example, the beach, a river, a forest, under a tree, your home, in a garden, etc. While you think of this place, engage in diaphragmatic breathing. Just breathe, thinking of that familiar, peaceful place. Tapping into your senses, pay attention to the sounds, the

sights, the smells associated with this place. Engage with that place in your mind. Picture yourself there enjoying the beauty and tranquility of the scenes you are viewing in your mind.

After enjoying the peacefulness of your “safe place”,  open your eyes slowly. Do this exercise as part of a stress management routine to de-stress. This is a great tool to teach children, especially during this time of being home-bound.

Encourage them to picture their calm place and even draw it if they like.

Diaphragmatic breathing: There are various styles to deep breathing. Keep one hand on your heart and one on your belly. Inhale, taking a deep breath with your nose filling your lungs with air (your diaphragm pushes down against the stomach causing your stomach to go out) after counting 1, 2, 3, (depending on your age, less or more counts), then exhale slowly with your mouth. Continue this for about 1-5 minutes (depending on your age). Please discontinue if you have pain in any part of your body while engaging in these exercises.

Balloon breathing: Place your hands on your head and pretend to blow up a balloon gradually. As you take breaths through your nose, keep moving your hands up, as if to show the balloon being inflated. Once you’ve reached the top, then slowly exhale with your mouth while deflating the balloon. Move your hands down gradually until it reaches your head. Repeat this (1-5 minutes depending on your age). Children under 5 years may only be able to do this exercise for about a minute before they get restless while older children may do it for a longer time.


Share This Post


Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.