Stay novel, stay calm

Stay novel, stay calm

Before we talk to our kids about the spread of coronavirus, it is imperative that we introspect, suggests Dr Ramya Mohan


In any situation that causes fear, anxiety and panic, the best thing we can do for our kids is to help them understand, manage the barrage of information and withstand the urge to panic.

This is not an easy task when we are facing widespread chaos and the WHO’s declaration that Covid-19 is officially a pandemic. It has already hit the world’s largest economy badly, many parts of the country are heading towards lockdown. No matter how old our kids might be, our anxieties and fears rub off on them and can potentially create a difficult scenario, especially in the context of impending exams and exam stress.

Before we talk to our kids about the virus spread (which is of course crucial), it is imperative that we introspect — we need to ask ourselves honestly about the state of mind we are in.

Are we (as parents or employees or sons/daughters of aged parents), fearful, anxious or frustrated? Maybe we harbour worries about our own physical well-being and are unwilling to express/accept it. When we have a conversation with our children, we need to be fully present, emotionally neutral, well-informed and in a position to have an honest, fact-based conversation. Make sure external factors don’t intrude — switch off all gadgets and the TV. Initiate an open conversation by asking them what they have heard about the virus.

What do they believe is true and what are they unable to comprehend? Do listen without interruptions and be honest about limitations to your knowledge. Once children, especially younger children, are able to express themselves, we can help them understand routine procedures that can be the foundation for cleanliness and healthy habits in the longer-term. Discuss how limits on travel/public gatherings are being balanced with career/work expectations.

Re-iterate public health directives eg., sneezing into a safely disposable tissue/handkerchief. It helps to approach positive discussion by thinking about pro-active steps we can all take (like healthy food, good sleeping habits).

It helps to assure ourselves and our children that there are many experts working 24/7 to control the virus. They need to feel that they can stay safe, as long as they take necessary precautions.

Bake or cook with your child, listen to music, create fun art and laugh together, the good ol’ fashioned way. Play board games or enjoy a sport together. After all, as a family, you are all in the same boat. A healthy mind supports a healthy body optimally. With this approach, children can be helped to overcome their fears and worries.

Those with pre-existing mental health difficulties that may include anxiety, depression, adjustment issues or recurrent hand-washing may be finding the situation overwhelming. Please contact your psychiatrist or mental health professional for support at the earliest.

Last but not the least, reassure your kids that there are lots of highly trained experts working round the clock to contain the virus and that, eventually, it will be brought under control. We can collectively strengthen our emotional immune system that plays a vital role in all our lives.

(The author is medical director,
iMANAS London)

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