Working from home? Restricted by curfew? This is your time to shine – as a parent.
The rapid spread of COVID-19 has caused major shifts in mindset all over the world. Companies have had to reconsider their stance on staff working from home, for example, and you’ve had to adjust to a new life, juggling emails and phone calls with housekeeping and homework.
This is just as much of an adjustment for your children, if not more so, reminds Dr Raksha Takoordeen, a paediatrician at Mediclinic Pietermaritzburg. ‘We’re living in uncharted territory and talking to kids about the issues related to COVID-19 and the lockdown can be very tricky.’
Her secret to success? Honesty. ‘Children are very simple beings. The best way to deal with this is to be as honest as possible and explain to them exactly what’s going on but try to do it on an age- or developmentally appropriate level.’
This information, even if it changes as we learn more about the disease, is more effective coming from you, a trusted source. ‘The media can be very daunting with factual information as well as sensationalism,’ says Dr Takoordeen. ‘Try to limit their exposure so you have control over the information they receive to ensure that it’s not overwhelming or frightening. ‘
Honesty underpins the stability children crave during this time. ‘A crisis such as this is extremely confusing and unsettling for children, so it’s crucial to maintain some kind of daily routine and structure. Try to incorporate home schooling in a way that causes the least amount of stress. Involve older kids in decisions regarding where they want to do their work: inside or outside, and what games or activities they want to undertake during the structured break periods.’
Honesty and stability are crucial elements; expertise is not. ‘Remember your home isn’t a classroom and you are not a teacher so try not to place too much pressure on yourself. And don’t forget to allow them to contact school friends and perhaps set up a call with their favourite teacher [if the school doesn’t offer remote classes].’
This is a time when you and your children will spend more time together than ever. Use that closeness to foster an intimate connection. ‘As healthcare professionals, our children know and understand that we’re at a higher risk, especially older children. They also expect us to know all the answers. Reassure them as much as possible that you’re taking the necessary precautions at work.’
There’s no one-size-fits-all method, business-as-usual approach to parenting at a time like this. Acknowledge and accept that things will change, and when they do, adapt with a spirit of openness. ‘Be honest when you don’t know. For example, you don’t know when life will return to normal, so say so. It’s unclear when they’ll be able to see their friends and other family members again, or when they can return to school and extracurricular activities – but remind them regularly that all our efforts are for their safety and protection.’