How to Talk to Your Children About the COVID-19 Pandemic



RIAD: As Saudi Arabia enters its second month of isolation at home, children find it increasingly difficult to cope with the new normal, and parents face the difficulty of explaining the dire situation to them.
If you ask a child these days, you know that coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a germ or insect that can make him seriously ill and prevent him from going out and going out with his friends. Sitting them down for a lengthy conversation and explaining the situation could reassure them and put things in perspective.
Dr. Samirah Al-Ghamdi is the executive director of the National Program for Development and Behavioral Disorders of the Ministry of Health and a psychiatrist and cognitive behavioral therapist for children, adolescents and adults. She shared with Arab News some tips on how to speak frankly to children about the pandemic and how to deal with stress-related changes in their behavior.
Al-Ghamdi warned parents that children are sensitive to their environment and can easily panic if they see that their parents are concerned.
“Anxiety can be transferred to the parents’ children and their surrounding environment. If parents are anxious or panicked, they must take care of themselves first. When talking to children, parents should be calm and relaxed and reassuring them by explaining all the information they need based on their age. Parents must be available to listen to a child’s questions and be honest in answering them, “he said.
Al-Ghamdi also warned against allowing children to be exposed to too much external information, particularly on television and the Internet. He advised parents to be honest and offer enough information to answer a child’s questions.
Al-Ghamdi also recommended that parents pay special attention to health and hygiene practices.
“We need to teach them how to take care of themselves,” he said.
He advised parents on what to do if a family member is separated due to a mandatory quarantine. Staying in touch regularly through phone calls and video calls gives children a sense of security and comfort. In cases where the primary caregiver is separated from a child, parents should ensure that an alternative caregiver is provided.
A child’s environment is an important factor in determining whether he or she feels free to express emotions.

Adults must work together with the child, at the same level, to achieve emotional closeness.

Khawla Al-Wahaib, Child development expert

“Children should be encouraged to communicate their feelings in a safe and supportive environment. Not all children express emotions in the same way. Sometimes participating in a creative activity, such as drawing, can make communication easier. They need to express their feelings of anger, fear or sadness and learn to deal with these feelings, “he said.
Children experiencing significant anxiety “need to learn to relax using relaxing methods such as deep breathing or muscle relaxation,” said Al-Ghamdi. “Encourage your children to express their thoughts and challenge them until a rational conclusion can be reached,” he said.
In some cases, parental support alone may not be enough. Al-Ghamdi encouraged parents to seek help, when needed, from a certified professional.
Al-Ghamdi recommended maintaining a regular routine and creating new ones to help children become listless or depressed from being confined to the home.
“Encourage creativity: drawing, learning, playing and relaxing,” he said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Children should not be exposed to too much external information on television and the Internet.

• Parents should pay special attention to health and hygiene practices.

• Maintain a regular routine and create new ones to help children not become listless or depressed.

• When talking to children, parents should be calm and relaxed.

Khawla Al-Wahaib is a child development expert and practitioner of the HighScope approach, a research-based method that promotes learning through active and practical play that is aligned with the child’s developmental stage. She told Arab News that hands-on learning could help children adjust to the current state of affairs.
“Adults should be aware of a child’s interests, strengths and weaknesses and use them to convey a message. The younger the child, the more difficult it can be for them to understand abstract concepts, things they cannot see or touch. We need to do it. tangible for them. It is also important that we share objective information with children. It builds trust, “she said.
He recommends engaging children in activities that help them realize what the world is going through by taking them in a safe way that they can understand.
“One method would be to create an environment for role play (doctor-patient, scientist in the laboratory, television announcer, etc.) and raise issues related to that topic. Adults should work together with the child, at the same level, to achieve emotional closeness. Start with simple concepts, then gradually build on them, “he said.
He also recommends that the importance of good hygiene be emphasized through simple gestures, such as playing with stuffed animals and demonstrating proper hand washing techniques.

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