Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:01 AM April 01, 2020
Adults are worried about the impact of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Children who have to stay home, cannot go to school, cannot see and play with their friends, may experience distress.
Save the Children Philippines is calling on parents and guardians to talk to children at this time, as they may experience fear or anxiety that manifests itself in many ways.
Some of the common reactions of children to a stressful event are: clinging to parents or guardians; regression to younger behavior like thumb-sucking or bed-wetting; disturbances in sleeping or eating patterns; increased crying and irritability; or becoming withdrawn or hyperactive.
Lawyer Alberto Muyot, chief executive officer of Save the Children Philippines, said children have the right to age-appropriate information about the COVID-19 pandemic, to help them understand the reasons behind the community quarantine that limits their mobility.
Save the Children is conducting online consultations with children in resettlement sites in Pasay, Tanay, Rizal, and Naic, Cavite, to make them understand how class suspensions, community quarantine and social distancing are affecting their lives.
The consultation will also promote awareness on personal hygiene, social distancing, cough etiquette among children and their families to prevent the spread of the virus.
Wilma Banaga, child protection advisor of Save the Children Philippines, reminds parents to consider the following when talking to Children about the COVID-19:
1. Make them feel safe.Be honest and give children information to make them feel as safe as possible. Parents and guardians must keep the family and home sanitized, and provide comfort to children through hugs or soothing words, assuring them that they are there to protect them.
2. Stick to facts and use words easily understood by children.Having the right information lessens children’s distress. Give your children factual information, but not too much information as it can be overwhelming. Listen to the child’s questions to have an informed conversation.
3. Validate their feelings while reassuring them. Ask children how they feel and assure them that everyone is working together to keep each other healthy. Children need to hear what needs to be done to help stop the spread of virus.
Tell your child: “I know you are irritable right now because you are getting bored that we cannot go out. We are all experiencing that as well, but we can do some fun activities together in the house. Do you have any suggestions?”
Or “I understand you are afraid, and it is okay because the situation is really scary, but people in government all over the world are working together to find a solution as soon as possible. Many people who get sick also recover, and we are doing our part to help in not spreading the virus by staying at home.”
4. Regularly check on your children. Aside from checking on the health status of your children, parents and guardians should have a regular conversation with them to ask what they know about COVID-19.
Children and teenagers get information from different sources, some of which may not be trustworthy. So, it is important to let them know that any time they have a question, and if they want to clarify things they read or hear, they can always come to you. If older children wish to watch the news, watch it with them so you can answer any questions.
5. Children can contribute.Remind them of what’s within their power—washing hands thoroughly and often, practising cough etiquette, and getting plenty of sleep, etc. Children deal with difficult situations better when they know what to do and how to do it. Talk about ways to prevent getting ill and not pass the virus to others.
6. Model good hygiene, and try to make it fun.Children remember things easier when they are taught in a fun and creative manner. Help them remember the preventive measures against COVID-19 through song or dance like the #Covidance from the Department of Health. You can also teach them the importance of washing their hands with soap through the “pepper experiment” or by singing their favorite song while washing their hands for 20 seconds.