3. Increasing a child’s awareness on what COVID-19 is, why they were under lockdown, what would happen if they caught the virus, and how they should interact with their fellow teachers and peers.
a. Information regarding such matters should be delivered in an age appropriate, simple, fact based, and clear manner. To do so, parents can rely on verbal explanations accompanied by visual aids such as age-appropriate videos presented by Ted-Ed, WHO, UNICEF etc.
b. Such techniques would decrease the possibility of children having false or superstitious ideas that can be anxiety provoking.
c. For example, if children were generally warned against being near other people, without the parents getting into detail on the reasons of such a warning, they might develop an aversion to crowded places such as schools. Several youths have also struggled with extreme fear for their parents’ health, which also adds to their reluctance and apprehension of going to school.
d. Educational videos with attractive illustrations and animations can also improve the protective/hygienic skills of children against COVID-19.
4. Avoid exposing children to tabloid news, which can often contain exaggerated language, violent COVID-19 related imagery, false news, and so on. While adults can more easily detect an exaggeration, and overrule it as such without too much thought, children have a hard time doing so. Thus, exposing child to such reports can elicit increased anxiety.
5. Parents are also advised to model appropriate preventive measures and coping mechanisms to their children.
a. Modeling is basically performing an activity in a way that is understandable, and informative to a child, allowing them to eventually perform the same action by themselves.
b. This can include preventive actions like hand washing, wearing masks; but also social behaviors like how to interact with people, what they are allowed to touch etc.
c. Setting reminders for when to perform the modelling actions can be helpful as well.
6. Efforts should be made so that a consistent routine is followed by the child, with enough opportunities to play, read, rest and engage in physical activity.
a. It is recommended for families to play board games and engage in indoor sports activities whereby the child can avoid spending too much time playing games.
b. Parents should ensure their child has a consistent bedtime routine.
c. It is desirable for parents to provide their child with more time and attention before bedtime.
7. Parents should focus on praising and encouraging “good behavior” over warning and disciplining against “bad behaviors”
a. This includes focusing on and reinforcing small milestones and behaviors that have improved. For example, showing less clinginess before leaving home, crying has become less intense, improvement of school grades (even if it was minor), making new friends, and earning positive notes from teachers.
b. If parents feel the need to caution their child on a certain behavior, they can do so by informing him/her of other, better options, instead of scolding their actions. Positively framing an instruction is more effective while communicating with children.
c. “Provide more praise and social reinforcements to children compared to material reinforcements.”
8. Decrease attention paid to non-harmful “negative” behaviors of a child.
a. Sometimes, attention can reinforce and help maintain an unwanted behavior much longer than desired.
b. For instance, taking your child to school yourself after they refuse to get on the bus will reinforce their refusal, because it resulted in a desirable action of you driving them to school. Other actions such as allowing them to stay home and not attend school after they exhibit distress will also reinforce their behavior.
c. It is also important to note that these negative behaviors are not stemming from a valid reason that is causing harm to your child or anyone else. Nevertheless, you should always validate your child’s feelings and emotions, understand where their struggle is coming from, and make sure that their resistance to school is not due bullying or possible abuse. If that is the case, then more individualized attention, care, and collaborative measures with the school should be taken.
Singh, S., Roy, D., Sinha, K., Parveen, S., Sharma, G., & Joshi, G. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 and lockdown on mental health of children and adolescents: A narrative review with recommendations. Psychiatry research, 293, 113429. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psychres.2020.113429