15 March 2020, Doha, Qatar – The Children and Adolescent Mental Health (CAHMS) team at Sidra Medicine, a member of Qatar Foundation advice parents to talk to their children about COVID-19, and not to completely downplay the enormity of the situation.
“Children are looking to their parents to understand COVID-19 and therefore it is important that parents respond to questions to help their children remain calm and feel reassured. Frank discussions offer a number of learning opportunities, possibilities to increase resilience and help the children feel safe, which in turn will positively affect their physical and mental health,” said the CAHMS team at Sidra Medicine.
The CAHMS team recommend parents take the following approach, especially with younger children:
- Be sure to offer reassurance about your ability as a parent to protect your child in the ways you can. Reassure your child’s safety, and discuss who the adults are in their life who will help keep them safe and how.
- It is okay to let your child know you do not have all the answers, information is evolving, and you will share with them what they need to know when you have important new information to share.
- Let children know it is okay to feel uncomfortable or anxious at this time and that they may have mixture of different feelings (fear, worry, anger, even happiness for not having to go to school). Explain to them that this is natural, and that even adults feel this way (they will pick up on this anyway).
- Talk with them about how they can reduce thoughts and feelings associated with anxiety if they have them, by talking with you (their parent) about this
- Check-in often with your children.
Maintaining a Routine:
- Maintain or re-establish normal routines as much as possible. For example:
- Write a daily schedule and post it in the house, include what parents are doing at certain times, (i.e. time parents leave and return from work, when parents will call to check-in, etc.) include a time for children to ask questions they have about the news or rumors they heard so they can process this and get accurate and reassuring information.
- Try to increase your child’s sense of control through every day activities that they can help with and feel confident about, i.e. small chores or projects they can work on, helping to cook or learning a new skill.
- Promote good health practices and discuss why they are important; include regular hand washing times on your daily schedule.
- Practice how to cough into your elbow, how to wash hands the right way, and practice not touching your face.
- Help to reduce panicking behaviors in children and prejudice/discrimination that have arisen during this time and reinforce care for others in appropriate ways.
- Use this as an opportunity to talk about how to help others and practice acts of kindness, especially if you know anyone who is self-quarantining, i.e. send them a meal through a meal delivery service, send them messages of encouragement to stay in touch.
Trusted source of information:
- It is strongly recommended to go to trusted sources of information for updates about COVID-19. Sidra Medicine advices checking Qatar’s Ministry of Public Health’s website page dedicated to COVID-19 or to call 16000.
Read the Arabic information here.
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