The COVID-19 virus has disrupted family lives. In Hong Kong, schools are closed until after Easter, many parents are working from home as well as home-schooling their children, most events have been canceled, and the hustle and bustle of the city has died down and given way to isolation and panic. Kids are very attuned to the general atmosphere, and we are here to help you tackle this unfamiliar situation.
Little Steps has invited Dr. Andrew Adler back – the director of Adler Family Centre in Hong Kong, a licensed psychologist – to talk us through how to help your children and yourself during the virus outbreak. The gist: don’t let anxiety overwhelm you – keep yourself rooted in reality, dig deeper into your inner resources, and grow with the challenges! Never forget that you can seek professional advice for yourself and your kiddos if you’re struggling. For more, watch our insightful Facebook Live and read on!
The way in which you should approach this unfamiliar and pressing subject depends on the level of your child's development, i.e., their maturity. Keep everything reality-based and explain that we all need to take precautions (washing hands, wiping devices, wearing masks, etc.) because we should welcome extra protection, even though the chances of catching the virus are realistically small.
- Children under 5 or 6 don't need too many details because they cannot grasp the complexity of the issue. Reassure them that you are taking extra precautions to keep yourselves healthy and strong.
- Children in primary school need you to be open to their questions. Acknowledge that people are getting sick at the moment, maybe that even you are a bit nervous, but that you are doing what needs to be done to protect yourselves.
- Tweens and teenagers are inquisitive. Knowledge gives both you and them a sense of control, so, along with everything above, you can discuss statistics with them and engage them with information.
This change in routine and confinement brings about a lot of nervousness and boredom both. The best thing you can do for both yourself and your children is to create a healthy, consistent routine. Include your kids in the development of the daily schedule that includes (virtual) school hours and after-school activities.
- Create a schoolwork environment: This will ensure a motivating, productive atmosphere. You can have fun with creating that space with your kids.
- Get involved: Reward your kids for keeping up with the routine in a way that doesn't involve bribes, but privileges and extra attention from you. Engage your creativity and/or take advantage of the vastness of the internet to find learning materials, creative projects, do something palpable and benefit from the stimulation, focus, bonding, and memories you'll get ou of it.
- Involve your social networks: Ask teachers and other parents for advice or help. Collaborate on creating materials, planning safe activities or even creating a one-room schoolhouse. Hanging out, helping out and getting help in these areas alleviates anxiety – and loneliness – in everyone involved.
- Maintain the routine: You too should maintain a routine to offset the disruption. Create one that compliments your children. Having regular social contact boosts your well-being and may also help keep you on track. Work closely with domestic helpers who are invaluable when you’re working full-time – see them as a part of the solution in general!
- Talk openly: Reach out to your social network. This may require a certain amount of work, but the rewards are great. Be open, honest, and share your experience with other humans in a way you’re comfortable with. Acknowledge the awkwardness if you feel it’s awkward or difficult – putting things on the table takes away their power. Vulnerability is hard but wonderfully rewarding!