The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has upended family life around the world. School closures, working remote, physical distancing — it’s a lot to navigate for anyone, but especially for parents. Even with the emergence of the COVID-19 vaccine, it will be some time before we see a return to some level of normality (or new normal). However that doesn’t mean you are helpless, to get through the COVID-19 outbreak, family members must remain the essential source of support by helping all family members to feel safe, positive and maintain a healthy mind.
There are several things that can be done to protect yourself and your family.
Follow Recommended Preventative Actions:
According to the CDC guidelines, good hygiene, physical distancing, and wearing a mask in public spaces are some of the best preventive measures to avoid getting COVID-19.
- It’s important that you wash your hands frequently. Soap and water are most effective, but hand sanitizers that are at least 60% alcohol are also effective at killing coronavirus.
- Staying at least six feet apart from others whenever possible.
- Mask wearing is not advised for children under the age of two, but children above age two can wear simple cloth masks, as long as they have no health conditions that prevent them from doing so.
Children need time and consistency when adapting to a new routine. Here are some tips to help implement preventive actions in their lives:
- Explain the importance of hand washing to children — why it is so efficient to stop the virus from spreading.
- Explain and demonstrate hand washing to your child.
- Be a good role model.Children are likely to follow what they see the adults practice.
- Teach your children how and why they need to practice physical distance—keeping a distance of 6 feet—when being out in public spaces.
Promote Physical Health:
While being healthy will not prevent you from getting sick, your recovery may be easier if you have a strong immune system. Set a positive example by leading an active lifestyle yourself and making physical activity a part of your family’s daily routine. Any kind of movement done three or four times a week for at least twenty minutes, can be beneficial for your health: this can be walking, running, dancing, yoga, or whatever inspires you to move. Regular physical activity can improve your child’s physical and mental health. Ensure your child stays active every day while taking everyday preventive actions.
Here are some things that you can do to assist in maintaining your family’s physical health:
- Practice outdoor activities (while physical distancing), such as bike rides, skating and walks.
- Practice activities at home with your children, such as yoga and improvised dancing.
- Practice healthy nutrition, avoid processed meals and maintain your vegetable and fruit intake
Protecting Your Family’s Mental Health:
Physical distancing, switching to online school, or the death of a family member, are all drastic factors that can affect the mental health of both children and adults. Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. However, learning how to manage stress and get through stressful challenges, will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger. Some things that you can do to help with mental wellbeing:
- Connect with others: Share your concerns and feelings with a friend or family member. Maintain healthy relationships and build a strong support system.
- Take breaks: Make time to unwind and remind yourself that negative feelings will fade. Try taking in deep breaths. Try to do activities you usually enjoy.
- Stay informed: When you feel you are missing information, you may become more stressed or nervous. Watch, listen to, or read the news for updates from officials. Be aware of misinformation, especially on social media. Always check the sources of information and only turn to reliable sources such as your local government and public-health authorities.
- Avoid too much exposure to news: Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting.
- Seek help when needed: If distress impacts activities of your daily life for several days or weeks, talk to a clergy member, counselor, or your doctor.
For parents, there are many things you can do to support your child. Children and teens react, in part, to what they see from adults around them. When parents and caregivers deal with COVID-19 calmly and confidently, they can provide the best support for their children. Parents can be more reassuring to others around them, especially children, if they are better prepared.
- Take time to talk with your child or teen about the COVID-19 outbreak. Answer questions and share facts about COVID-19 in a way your child or teen can understand.
- Reassure your child or teen they are safe. Let them know it is okay to feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so they can learn coping skills from you.
- Limit your family’s exposure to news coverage of the event, including social media. Children may misinterpret what they hear and can be frightened about something they do not understand.
- Try to keep up with regular routines. If schools are closed, create a schedule for learning activities and relaxing or fun activities.
- Be a role model. Take breaks, get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat well. Connect with your friends and family members.
Maintaining Social Wellbeing:
Help your family stay socially connected. We are social beings and love to connect with our family and friends. Though we are practicing physical distancing, do not let that stop you from reaching out to your friends and family via telephone, Zoom or WhatsApp chat.
Check to see if your child’s school has tips and guidelines to help support social and emotional needs of your child. The Family Centre has great online family resources (www.tfc.bm) for keeping families health and happy during the pandemic. Some things that you can do with your family:
- Establish daily routines to promote bonding between family members.
- Spend quality time with your family — no work, no chores, just bonding activities.
- Answer questions that your child may have about COVID-19 and tailor your communication approach to your child’s age.
- Play with your child. If you are a father, engage more with your child.
- Reassure your kids that they are safe.
- Monitor their behaviors. Watch out for signs of stress, such as frequent moments of sadness, unhealthy eating, bad sleeping habits, and difficulty to focus.
- Reach out for help. Reach to an online therapist if you think your kids need it.
In general, the lowest risk events are events that can be held virtually; however, that does not mean that in-person events should not happen at all. It is important for children to get out of the house and find ways of connecting to others.
Participating in outside events where physical distancing and masking rules are observed, are generally considered low risk activities, especially if these events are not crowded. Inside events may be safe, as long as ventilation, distancing, masking are
The pandemic will end eventually, and we will all get through this. But it is important to remember that surviving this pandemic is not just about following all of the safety precautions for our children and our families; it is about making sure that our children and our physical, mental and social well-being are tended to, as well.
You can turn this crisis into an opportunity for you and your family.
Expert Advice from Dr. Virloy Lewin, Health Promotion Coordinator at the Department of Health