Like much of the world, schools in Canada have been closed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. In Ontario, the closures come on the heels of rotating teachers strikes earlier in the year that paralyzed schools.
Theme: With so many children out of school and daycare during the coronavirus outbreak, most parents are practicing social distancing by keeping their kids indoors.
Children and teens no longer have the structure of school, and social distancing rules have cut them off physically from their friends except on social media.
Scenes of children running up and down the streets are replaced with silence as they are stuck inside on the Xbox, iPhone, or watching TV. And as their children get restless, parents are getting increasingly frustrated.
The Ontario government says the school shutdown will continue beyond April 5 and last indefinitely until the pandemic is under control. The province is planning to roll out online learning for students during the COVID-19 lockdown but has yet to provide more details about when this will happen and how it will guarantee computer access for all the students in the province.
Sundri Gunraj, a mother of two daughters and a clothing store manager, says that it has been hard for her to keep her children at home as they are oblivious of the danger of the disease.
“I give them assignments to work on in the morning and afternoon, and from time-to-time, we spend time playing cards,” said Gunraj. “But when they get tired of all this, they want to go out and feel the fresh air, explore what’s going on outside. But they have no choice besides making a sad face.”
In an interview with Asia Metro Weekly , Dr. Navjot Brainch, a psychiatrist in New York City, says it’s important for parents to take care of their mental well-being first so they can care for their children. “As they say in airplanes, put your mask on first before assisting your children,” said Dr. Brainch.
Here are Dr. Navjot Brainch’s tips for surviving a pandemic with kids.
- Communicate with each other as a couple and then explain to the kids about what is going on and why it is necessary. Try to speak to children in simple terms they understand. An example of this could be in how the children can be superheroes and protect the world by practicing social distancing.
- Read COVIBOOK by Mind Heart to your children. Geared for kids under seven years old, this colorful and printable COVID-19 storybook breaks down the virus and helps them manage anxiety/stress. It’s also available in many languages.
- Working in shifts can help parents take time and space for themselves when needed and rejuvenate and manage their own stress/anxiety.
- Participating together as a family in an activity that is enjoyable to everyone like playing board games or Legos, or reading stories will help decrease screen time. Using audible books or education subscriptions is also an excellent idea to help children learn.
- Parents should involve kids in a project that has been pending for a while, like re-organizing their room, decorating the room, painting, and crafts.
- Spending together much needed quality family time and coming up with things/activities that will become part of the tradition and will be carried forward after the quarantine is helpful.
- Skype, FaceTime to help children feel connected to peers and family.
- Plan physical activities that you can do with your kids.
- To keep it organized, make lists of things to do a day before so that when kids wake up in the morning, they know what their day looks like.
- Like everything else, this will pass too! Instilling hope and answering questions of children can help lower their anxiety. Uncertainty of not knowing is anxiety-provoking but validating this can be helpful for your partner and for your children.
Gunraj urges you to keep watch in their communities for signs of domestic violence. She worries the pressure that comes from prolonged stay-at-home orders will cause an uptick in child abuse.
“I firmly urge people, in general, to stay watchful about the security of kids in families,” said Gunraj.
Also, Gunraj advises the parents as she practices herself at home. It is important to keep children occupied: the family room can be a fun place, and once set up, it can provide numerous activities.
Nourishment is important; hence parents should invest energy consistently in cooking together with their children.
Cooking together assists with delivering advice to children about nourishment, cooking, and eating, while uniting the family. Many children grow up, never figuring out how to cook; this is the opportune time for them to support parents while learning this essential skill she added.