With over six million infected and more than 372,000 deaths, the COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the worst outbreaks in recorded human history, resulting in national and international level lockdowns with heavy restrictions on the movement of people in order to curb the spread of the disease.

Those new to parenting or caring for elderly parents have had their work cut out in the months since the new coronavirus infection emerged in late 2019—the viral infection has caused a disruption in the daily life of millions of people around the world. There has been a huge burden on healthcare systems all over the world, with public health authorities making treatment of COVID-19 the priority at hospitals everywhere.

That has also meant that people with underlying health conditions—the likes of which are endemic throughout the world—and the elderly have been placed under a significant burden of having to delay or postpone treatments they were undergoing.

In such a time of a global public health crisis, parents of young children or people taking care of the elderly are also facing a difficult time having to manage, trying to find ways to work around the outbreak.

  1. Tips for young parents caring for toddlers and children
  2. Takeaways

The United Nations Children's Fund, the UN agency responsible for providing developmental and humanitarian aid to children globally, has come up with a set of tips for parents to manage a new normal that has been thrust upon the world for almost six months. 

With schools in several countries shut down temporarily and authorities beginning to ease lockdowns, it is important for your children to understand that the threat of this deadly virus is still out there, and their parents are there to look after them even in these critical times.

Set aside some time to spend with your children, one on one

It is understandable that working parents—or even those not working—have had their hands full, trying to juggle their jobs as well as keeping their homes in order. However, it is equally important to not let your children feel neglected in these times, especially when you are around.

With children not being able to attend school, managing their studies through online classes and ensuring they are learning from them becomes important. However, it is also important that as parents, you are able to spend some individual time with each of them. Keeping a set time every day when you can do that can be beneficial as children can get used to a routine and look forward to spending that time with you.

Parents of babies can take this time to develop a special bond with their newborns, singing, playing or reading to them and listening to music. While these are difficult times, working parents can also appreciate the longer amounts of time they can spend with their children while developing a deeper understanding of their children's behaviour.

Children are extremely sensitive as well as receptive, and the more you spend time doing things with them, they can develop a sense of or learn about things such as drawing, sketching, making music, playing board games, talking about their favourite sports, films. Try to include them in your household chores, especially while cooking and cleaning, too.

Talk about COVID-19

As young parents, it is quite possible that you may have never experienced such restrictions imposed on yourselves either. It is important for parents to listen to their children about their hopes and fears, if any. Being honest with them can help them to become more sensitive to situations around them, more empathetic while discussing the difficulties people face every day.

This may be a confusing time for children, but it is important for parents to keep reinforcing the belief that things will be better and help them understand what this viral infection means, and why maintaining self-hygiene (the right way to wash your hands) and practising physical distancing is so important. In the end, what is important is that you remind them that you are there to listen to them and talk about anything, whenever they need to reach out.

Stay positive

It may be easier said than done, but to make this difficult time easier for everyone requires making adjustments.

Instead of admonishing children, it is important to praise them when they do well on a school assignment or in a task given by you. It not only reinforces a feeling of positivity in them, but it also helps them feel secure and cared for.

Being away from school may make your children miss meeting their classmates and playing with their friends, and you can help them understand why it is important to be away right now. You can also help them set up video calls with their friends so that they can spend some time talking to each other and not be completely devoid of interacting with children their own age.

Set a routine

While attending online classes, paying attention and practising a healthy daily schedule are important for your children, it is also important to not let them feel encumbered. Remember, it is an adjustment you are making in your own daily schedule as well.

Encouraging your children to wake up early, just as they would during schooldays, helps them keep their routine going. Wake up with them and help them set up their online classroom sessions, even though their school teachers will have a timetable for them. They may be missing playing a sport in the playground; you can help address that by encouraging them to exercise with you on a daily basis.

Practice hygiene and safety with your children by making handwashing a fun activity. Younger children love to do activities set to music; you can make a song for the 20 seconds they need to wash their hands for! Help them understand the concept of physical distancing, and if it is permitted in your area, take them out into the park and play a sport with them. 

Children take after their parents' behaviours, so it is important for you to not lose your cool. You can also take this time to instil a sense of compassion in them, especially towards those who may be less fortunate than you.

Keep children safe online

As with adults, even children are spending an increasing amount of time online on social media or otherwise. There are risks out there with respect to online bullying, abuse and violence, and it is important for you to be alert to such exposure. Your internet connections, as well as television, should have the requisite parental controls and keep the webcams in the computers hidden when not in use. 

You can also use this time to explain to them how the internet works and the good and bad things about it, and encourage positive practices when online. Spend more time on educational and engaging mobile apps that may be useful for them. If they happen to come across anything that wasn't meant to be seen, encourage them to be open and talk about it by ensuring them that you would not scold them.

Use lockdown time to bond as a family

Practising positive behaviour requires patience on the part of parents, and instead of stopping them from doing something, it is wise to enforce positive practices. For instance, it is better to use positive words such as "please make your bed", instead of negative words that start with "don't" or "no". It is also important to speak to children in a calm manner, rather than raising your voice or shouting.

If the children stay away from their grandparents, this time can be used to make them understand why it is important to maintain a distance from the elderly, as people over 60 years of age are at a higher risk of severe illness if they contract the COVID-19 infection. Help them connect with their grandparents regularly on video calls or on the phone, so that they can develop a stronger bond with their grandparents.

Understand the importance of space in the time of COVID-19

These can be difficult and stressful times for young parents, as working from home, performing household chores as well as attending to children can be tiring, which makes it all the more important to look after yourselves. Instead of getting on social media in your free time, use that opportunity to get some rest, read and catch up on the things you may have not done for a long time.

Perform meditation activities, deep breathing exercises and relaxation techniques when you can to feel rejuvenated after a long day of work, or before you start the day. There is a lot that needs to be looked after at home, and taking some time out to focus on your breathing, reflect and introspect can help you feel focused on the task at hand.

Rethink the way you deal with misbehaviour

Children can misbehave when they are put under pressure, are tired, hungry or afraid, and can be a handful to deal with for parents not used to spending so much time with them at home. Instead of admonishing them or shouting at them, it is important to help them differentiate between good behaviour and bad. Children can be restless, and it is a good time to engage them in a fun activity that can help them expend some energy and relax. And instead of imposing harsh punishments, introduce consequences for actions such as taking their smartphone away for a while. However, you should also praise them for having done well or making up for their mistakes which can help them understand your viewpoint better.

Manage your expectations and anger

The pandemic-induced lockdowns can get the better of anyone, and it is important to not let anger take over. It is important to be patient with children, while at the same time, also not show your frustration from work or a difficult situation at home. Effective stress management through yoga, deep breathing and disconnecting from the online world can definitely help in maintaining or reintroducing balance. Call your relatives and friends when you feel frustrated or angry and talk to them, which can help you become calm.

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The lockdown period has been difficult for many people, especially with young children to look after while having to balance work and life, all from home. It is always important to reflect and think why it is important to remain indoors and maintain a sense of equilibrium, and to help your children take on this challenge effectively as well.

Looking after yourself is one of the biggest challenges as a parent, especially while managing young children at home. However, it is also important to take care of your own health as well as your spouse's or partner’s, as they can be as stressed—if not more—as you.

Medicines / Products that contain Parenting in the time of COVID-19

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