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As we step into our seventh week of lockdown in Sydney (and a snap lockdown recently announced in Melbourne) there is no doubt the social isolation and the repetitive routine is taking a toll on all of us. For those of us with kids however, there is a whole different set of worries plaguing our minds about their growth and mental health.
Children, however, are more resilient than we think, and adapt to new situations surprisingly well. While they probably understood at a high level what coronavirus and lockdowns meant last year, their lives were somewhat normal until now. It makes sense then to spend some time talking to our kids about the situation we find ourselves in, and to listen to any questions and concerns they may have.
Here are a few tips on how to navigate such conversations and use this time to bond better as a family.
Even though we are all anxious at some level about the state of the world, it helps to keep the anxiety at bay when talking to children. Children will model our behaviour, so if we communicate the facts calmly, they are more likely to feel less worried and anxious themselves.
Use language that children will understand
Your children may be upset that they cannot see their friends at school or attend Saturday sports. Explaining in simple terms how those specific actions can spread coronavirus can help children understand the why. In addition, try to focus on positives such as being able to spend more time together as a family and the fact that this is all temporary, and things will go back to normal eventually.
There are also some great videos such as this one from the BBC which explain coronavirus in a child friendly way.
Help children work through their feelings
Some children may be fine with changes to their routine, but others may find it difficult to navigate. Validate your child’s feelings and reassure them that it is ok to feel worried, upset, and disappointed.
There are some great resources available to help children’s feelings of anxiety such as the smiling mind app, which aims to teach mindfulness to children. It is also useful to find alternatives to their usual activities, whether it be playing sport in the backyard/park or face timing friends and family.
Stick to a routine
Children thrive on routine as it provides structure for their day and a sense of normality. While you don’t need to stick to a rigid schedule, come up with a loose routine as a family that works for everyone. Try to keep the routine as close as possible to your children’s usual pre-lockdown routine.
Remember these are not normal times and so it is ok to not be too prescriptive on activities outside of school hours. Instead, provide prompts and some examples that your child can choose from. For example, if the activity/prompt is quiet time, then the examples could be reading, writing, or napping. Similarly, if the activity is exercise, let your child decide what they would like to do to get moving. This provides them with some autonomy and variety throughout the week.
While this was not the way we were hoping to spend the second half of 2021, we hope these tips can help you and your children navigate all the emotions you are feeling, and come out of this as a stronger, more resilient family unit.
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