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Colouring, breathing activities, and more: How you can keep your child engaged in lockdown

With schools shut, children are also bound to feel more agitated and confused than ever, causing them to react in ways that may be new for parents.

June 15, 2020 10:50:31 am

The ongoing pandemic and the resultant lockdown has been difficult for everyone. More so for parents who are suddenly scrambling for resources to keep their kids engaged in productive activities. With schools shut, children are also bound to feel more agitated and confused than ever, causing them to react in ways that may be new for parents. As such, it becomes important for parents to strike a balance between work and spending time with their kids, and understanding the ways in which the lockdown experience can be made simpler and healthier for the entire family.

Nooraa Sinha, senior counsellor (psychology) at the Shiv Nadar School in Noida went live on the Indian Express Facebook page, to share her insight and offer some solutions. Edited excerpts of her interaction.

What is the first thing that people should know?

That there is a lot of anxiety, and it is normal to feel anxious. Parents are anxious because they are working from home and it is a new experience for them. They are anxious about the family’s health, their job, the community, etc. It is important to identify and accept this aspect.

What do you think is the biggest challenge that kids are facing in lockdown?

Their whole life has become topsy-turvy. The place that they used to enjoy going to — their school — is no longer there, has not been there for the past two months, and may not be there for the next, we don’t know how many months. This uncertainty is a huge challenge, and it can lead to more anxiety. Their whole routine structure has changed. They cannot go out and play with their friends and their friends cannot come over. This is an imbalance for them and creates anxiety, which they perhaps cannot explain.

As adults, we sometimes dismiss anxiety. But every kid wants reassurance and wants to feel safe at this point. In this new normal, we have to continue to make our child feel safe.

What kind of activities can parents undertake to make it fun and functional at home?

A large part of our focus should be on calming and relaxing activities. Some of these include colouring, which is an activity that is really calming. You can search the internet for mandalas, which are basically circles and geometric patterns, psychologically proven to have a relaxing impact. Deep breathing exercises will also relax your children. It will help reduce anxiety and build patience in the child.

Another activity that is useful for when parents feel their child is giving in to their anxiety is acknowledging what the child is feeling. Discuss their feelings and tell them you will sit with them till they feel better. You can also try a grounding technique to make them feel calmer. You can make them look at five things around them, four things that they can touch, three things that they can smell, two things that they can hear, and one thing that they can taste. Not just children, but even adults that are going through anxiety can use this grounding technique.

What happens when a parent is anxious, too? How can they be patient with their kid(s) and not alarm them?

Parents have to first calm themselves down, and then interact with the child. Remember that more than anything else, your children are watching you. And they are going to role-model you, whether you like it or not. As a parent, it is important to reflect on: what am I showing my child? If I am anxious, let me first deal with my anxiety. Let me ground myself, and not fight my feelings.

Since children are unable to meet their friends/play outside, they tend to spend a lot of time on mobile phones, watching tv, etc. How much screen time should be allowed/is ideal for them?

The ideal online time for children under two years of age is 0, for three to five year olds it is one hour, for five to 10 year-olds, it is an hour and a half, and for teenagers it is two hours. But, this is not possible today. We can, however, establish best screen practices. Parents have to worry about the blue light, the child’s posture, and what time they should get off the device so they get adequate sleep.

Both parents and kids have to take screen breaks often, look away and blink. These are necessary for eye health. Basic stretching exercises is also needed — like shoulder rotation. These are things that can help a family to bond. Ideally we should shut our devices at least two hours before sleep time.

Should children be encouraged to participate in household chores? If so, what kind of activities?

Absolutely. There are age-appropriate chores that children can do. Older children can make beds for the family, they can help with setting the table, they can also have a cook day. Whatever kind of food they make, encourage them to cook for the family. Cooking together is a beautiful activity that you can engage in.

How can parents prepare young children for the future months?

Parents need to let children know that while the uncertainty can be anxiety provoking, the whole world is in it with them. It is a good idea to prepare them. Introduce your child to the mask, let them play around with it for a bit. If you give them the mask just before you step out, it can be frustrating both for the child and for you. Get them into the habit of washing or sanitizing their hands every hour. Also prepare them for the fact that life is going to change now.

Also in this series: From feeding the stranded to helping them get home, Delhi Samaritans become helping hand for many