By Sasmita Sahani
During a recent wedding in my extended family in rural Odisha, nearly 300 people turned up although only 50 people were allowed. Social norms prevented the hosts from turning them away or enforcing that everyone wears a mask. Many guests hugged children who were present without sparing a thought for their health. Much to a relative’s horror, a guest used his hankie to wipe her son’s face.
Cut to Mumbai. Some days ago, I was taking a walk in my neighbourhood. I came across several groups of teenagers while away their time. One thing was common among all of them: they were neither wearing masks nor practised social distancing. Some of them were even sharing a smoke.
Be on your guard
Today, staying safe is synonymous with washing hands, social distancing and wearing a mask. However, how many of us have tried, or rather failed, to explain this to our young ones? Well, I am one of the many. My five-year-old son seems to understand the danger of coronavirus and the need to stay indoors. Yet, he jumps to hug us every time we return home from outside. Similarly, the routine of regular hand-washing, not touching his face, maintaining social distancing is something difficult for him to remember all the time. The only option is to reiterate it every now and then. Though this has helped us to a certain extent, we must be on our guard always.
Stay home stay active
During a recent online parents’ meeting, teachers asked us to use old uniforms for the online classes till they can arrange for the new ones. One parent pointed out that the old uniform may not fit the children as they were putting on weight due to the lack of physical activities.
Raising an agile child has made me assume that all children are active at this age. To keep him engaged during the lockdown, we plan new activities and repeat them after a few days. Simple plyometric exercises such as jumping, and jogging are good options. What my son really enjoys is different animal movements such as duck walk or gorilla walk. We use soft balls or toys available at home to play a simple game of ‘catch that’; it helps in brain development and improving motor skills. Two daughters of a friend, one eight and another four, love to hula hoop every afternoon. Another colleague shared, who is a father of two daughters — one eight and another one-and-a-half, they dance for an hour every evening.
Work and life balance
Most of us are working out of home these days. Yet, the concept of working for 8-9 hours is no longer applicable. Some parents work for 12-14 hours and sometimes on weekends as well, apart from taking care of household chores. At regular intervals, my son asks me and my husband when our work will be over so that we can play with him. We have to explain to him that although we are working from home, it is still like going to the office. However, we plan some activities with him in the evenings such as reading and drawing.
Since most of the adult population is struggling with fear of COVID infection, job loss, performance pressure and financial insecurities, it is essential not to pass on those anxieties to the children.
Watch out for smartphone addiction
If something can be worse than the pandemic, then it is the smartphone addiction. Most of us, including our children, are glued to smartphones. Children are smart enough to know when their parents are busy or attending an important call. That’s the time, my son at times chooses to throw a tantrum to watch television or phone.
With time, I have learned to be firm and do not give in to his outbursts. My son, after being denied access to a mobile phone, has picked up Lego and was engaged with it for a few days in a row. Activity books with mazes and connecting dots have proved to be helpful, too. Finding time for making paper masks and cards is a good idea, too. While banning TV or phones may not be entirely possible, allow a fixed time for watching them.
Initially, I feared my son would miss going to school and parks. He tells us he doesn’t miss his friends as he is getting to spend time with his parents. These days, he appears awkward every time there is an online class, or a friend makes a video call. Slowly, it is becoming a concern. We coax our son to stay in touch with his friends, relatives, and converse with us.
Humans tend to run home during trouble. Parents remain the responsible ones who provide children a safe and healthy space to grow up in. Let’s try and create a safe haven within the confines of our home as we struggle to survive the pandemic.
(Sasmita Sahani works in the social sector. She writes on parenting and gender issues in her blog raising-ray.com)
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