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COVID 19: PARENTING IN LOCKDOWN (Lessons from UNIC.)

UNIC, the United Nations Information Centre, is sharing posters on COVID 19 PARENTING throughout the world. These 6 posters will be translated into our 11 official languages and shared throughout our communities. I received copies of these posters and additional information from Edith Kriel, social worker, who is well known for her commitment to the well being and safety of all of our nations children. (www.jellybeanz.org.za.) Unfortunately I cannot paste them onto the website so I have summarised the information below.

POSTER 1. ONE ON ONE TIME. 

"Can't go to work? Schools closed? Worried about money? It is normal to feel stressed and overwhelmed. School shutdown is also a chance to make better relationships with our children and teenagers. One on one time is free and fun. It makes children feel loved and secure, and shows them that they are important."

  • Set aside time to spend with each child
  • Ask your child what they would like to do
  • Switch off the TV and phone. This is virus-free time
  • Listen to them, look at them. Give them your full attention. Have fun!

POSTER 2. KEEPING IT POSITIVE.

"It's hard to feel positive when our kids and teenagers are driving us crazy. We often end up saying "Stop doing that!". But children are much more likely to do what we ask if we give them positive instructions and lots of praise for what they do right."

  • Say the behaviour you want to see e.g. "please put your clothes away"not "don't make a mess"
  • Praise your child when they are behaving well
  • It's all in the delivery. Shouting will make your child stressed and angrier. Speak in a calm voice
  • Get real. Your child is unlikely to stay quiet the whole day - aim for 15 minute periods while you make a call
  • Help your teen stay connected to their peers through social media

POSTER 3, STRUCTURE UP

"COVID-19 has taken away our daily work, home and school routines. This is hard for children, teenagers and for you. Making new routines can help."

  • Create a flexible but consistent daily routine. Include the children in making the schedule. Include structured activities such as schooling, exercise and free time.
  • Teach your child about keeping safe distances (for when the lockdown is lifted).
  • Make handwashing and hygiene fun. Make a 20 second handwashing song (rhyme, or rap)
  • You are a model for your child's behaviour. Your children will learn hygiene practices, (kindness) and compassion from you
  • At the end of the day, take a minute to think about the day. Tell your child about one positive or fun thing they did
  • Praise yourself for what you did well today

POSTER 4. BAD BEHAVIOUR

"All children misbehave. It is normal when children are tired, hungry, afraid, or learning independence. And they can drive us crazy when stuck at home."

  • Redirect. Catch bad behaviours early and redirect kids attention to good behaviour. Stop it before it starts. When they get restless, distract them with another activity.
  • Use Consequences. This teaches children to take responsibility for their actions. Give your child a chance to follow your instruction before implementing a consequence. Stay calm when giving a consequence. Follow through with the consequence. After the consequence, give your child an opportunity to do something good for which they receive praise.
  • Take a pause. Feel like screaming? Give yourself a 10 second pause. Breathe in and out slowly 5 times. Then try to respond in a calmer way.
  • Give your children and teens simple jobs with responsibilities that they can do, and praise them when they do it.

POSTER 5. KEEP CALM AND MANAGE STRESS

"This is a stressful time. Take care of yourself, so you can support your children.

  • You are not alone. Millions of people have the same fears as you. Find someone to talk to. Avoid social media that makes you feel panicked.
  • Take a break. When your children are asleep, do something fun or relaxing for yourself. You deserve it.
  • Listen to your children. Accept how they feel and give them comfort.
  • Take a pause. Practise relaxation activities that focus on your breathing. 

POSTER 6. TALKING ABOUT COVID-19

"Be willing to talk. They will already have heard something. Silence and secrets do not protect our children. Honesty and openess do. Think about how much they will understand. You know them best."

  • Be open and listen. Let your child talk freely - see how much they know.
  • Be honest. Answer truthfully. Consider your child's age and level of understanding.
  • Be supportive. Your child may be scared or confused. Let them share their feelings and let them know you are there for them.
  • There are a lot of stories going around. Some may not be true. Use trustworthy sites. (www.unicef.org/coronavirus/covid-19)
  • It is ok not to know the answers. "We don't know, but we are working on it."
  • Heroes not bullies. Teach compassion for the sick and the carers.
  • End on a good note. Check that your child is ok. Remind them that you care and that they can talk to you about anyhting. Then do something fun together.

 

 

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DR LESLEY CAREW

Dr Lesley Carew is a registered Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist practising at the Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital in Cape Town with a satellite sessional room on Thursday afternoons at the Akeso Milnerton.

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