27 March 2020

By Helen Sachdev

Our Views

COVID-19, working parents

COVID-19 Working Parents

With an estimated 1.4bn children across the world home from school right now (ref: Quartz Communications March 2020), many parents are home schooling their children for the first time. According to child psychiatrist, Megan Gunnar, many children are anxious, even frightened – they are not going to school, not seeing their friends nor family – people are sick.

In Italy, many children are starting to lose family members, parents of friends, teachers. As a country, the UK is a few weeks behind Italy, so who is to say what is to come?

So how do we prepare, and what can we do to help support our children emotionally? Megan Gunnar, shared a number of suggestions in the Quartz at Work webcast yesterday evening:

Check what your children are feeling anxious about

It’s easy to assume that you know what your children are anxious about. But before re-assuring children – take time to understand. They may surprise you, ‘I’m worried that Harry will die’; ‘Harry from school?’; ‘No, Harry my guinea pig’.

Reduce access to the media (good advice for parents too)

It’s a good idea to cut down exposure to the media, ‘It’s probably not a good idea to snuggle up with your three-year old to watch the news’.

Be calm and confident

No matter how we as adults feel, it’s important that children know that we believe we can get through this and that ‘we are good’. Stay positive.

Time means nothing to small children

If you have a 40-minute conference call, consider communicating in a way they understand, ‘when this video is finished, mummy/daddy will come and play with you’.

Bring children into the planning

Children love to plan and it helps them to develop resilience – for small children, it could be helping decide what to have for lunch today. For older children, you could involve them in the family scheduling.

Handling the tricky questions

Children want to know why they can’t go to school, can’t see their friends and family. How do you explain this to them? One approach is to frame this in a way that gives you back some of the power ‘we are staying at home to help others’.

Recognising Pain

It’s important, especially with teenagers, not to minimise the pain they feel being separated from friends. ‘At least you’re not dying’ is not helpful. Planning ahead – something to look forward to is.

A final message for all of us – this is happening now, but it won’t be happening forever.

Stay safe.