Bringing Back the Smiles of Kids Locked in at Home

Covid-19 has disrupted financial, economic, and social activities globally and created a sense of uncertainty among the masses. It has impacted the lives of both adults and children alike. However, it is the young children who have been most adversely impacted as outdoor play and socialization with their peers is critical for their physical and mental development during these years.

High levels of isolation and over-exposure to screens because of online learning and lack of real-time experiences are making children more anxious and angry and may lead to psychological stress. Furthermore, being locked in at home, kids are spending most of the time with their parents and finding it hard to cope with their parents’ passive-aggressive reactions towards their behaviour. 

Amidst these times, it is critical to properly deal with children’s emotions so that their mental health is not permanently impacted. As parents, you can make this challenging situation a lot more easier for your children by adopting the following ways: 

Spend Quality Time with Your Children

Take a break from your busy work schedules to spend time with your children, by reading together, playing games or engaging in other enjoyable indoor activities for kids, such as gardening, baking, dancing or colouring. This will help in calming their minds and will create a deeper bond between you and your children as well. Even spending 30 minutes to an hour with your children everyday can go a long way in making them happier.  

Connect Children with Nature

In the absence of interacting much with their peers, get them to interact with nature and make friends with the plants, birds and other living beings. Watering plants or bird-feeding, for example, will bring your children great joy and will help them cope with the isolation effects of lockdown. It will also instill a great sense of empathy in them, which is the most fundamental skill of our times.

Happy Healthy Parents Make Happy Healthy Children

In these trying times, it is imperative to keep your own mental health in check as well. Take some time out of your busy schedule and indulge in exercise and your hobbies like walking, running, playing a sport, yoga, meditation, reading, gardening, cooking or more for stress management or rejuvenating yourself. Children often imitate their parent’s behaviour. If you shout at them, they will yell back. Instead, try to stay calm when you are dealing with them. 

Lend an Ear to Your Children and Appreciate Them

You should provide enough support to your children to minimise their anxiety and anger. Lend a listening ear to them when they are sharing their feelings or emotions. When your children are having a meltdown, instead of reacting and accusing them of negative behaviour, give them a hug and indulge together in a fun activity for kids and reason out with them when they are calm. Also appreciate the small things they do everyday, to give a valuable boost to their self-esteem and bring back their smiles.

Here’s a fun activity for kids that I did with my 6 year old son to make him more aware of his feelings:

“I asked him to draw a big heart on a piece of paper and write down what having a ‘vast or a big heart’ means to him. He came up with traits like ‘Does not get angry’, ‘Does not bully or tease’ and ‘Believes in the goodness of everyone.’ I then asked him to put the drawing on the pin-up board on his desk so that he can see it every day and always remember them. Now whenever he gets angry or indulges in any negative behaviour, I remind him of the ‘vast heart’. As a result of this activity, he has become more aware of his feelings and is making a conscious effort to change them.”

– Ekta Ohri, Founder-LitJoys

Temper Tantrums & Mental Health of Kids at Home

With kids at home for a year now, their temper tantrums are increasing and many parents are struggling to manage them. Here are a few pointers that may be useful for us (parents) to ensure that we don’t cause more damage to their health and happiness…

DON’Ts

Do not disrespect your child’s perspective or emotions 

It may seem like a small issue to you but for your child it means a big thing. Don’t say things like “why are you making fuss over such a small thing.There’s nothing to get so upset about.” They will end up rebelling or feeling more angry otherwise.

Do not tell your child how to feel

Don’t make comments like Don’t be angry,” or “Stop getting so upset!” They may cause children to get even more upset in response. In contrast, however, they frequently calm down when we parents simply help identify their feelings.

Do not lose your temper 

It’s important to model the behavior you want to see for your child. If you lose it and start yelling and throwing an adult-style tantrum of your own, your child will see this type of behavior as something that’s acceptable at your house.

DO’s 

Ask what’s wrong

Kids just want to be heard, and throwing a tantrum is often the best way they know how to express themselves. Taking your child seriously by asking what’s wrong and actually listening to the response can help. Hold your child and give them your full attention so they have time to explain.

Give clear explanations instead of just saying “no”

Many parents just say “no” and “because I said so” instead of explaining the reason why, but that’s frustrating for kids. You don’t have to give a long-winded explanation, but providing a reason for your actions will help the child make sense of things and feel more in control of the situation.

Help your child feel loved no matter what 

Sometimes kids throw tantrums because they just want some extra love and attention. Withholding love is never a good policy when it comes to disciplining a child. No matter what, your child should know that you love them no matter what. Hug your child and say “I love you,” even if you’re very frustrated with their behavior.

Connecting kids to nature, naturally.

“Children who grow up closer to nature are said to be happier,” says studies.

I come from an era where technology had not set in our lives as much as it is today. So outdoor activities like planting trees, recycling paper waste to productive methods of usage, and just being out playing in the mud, making houses with twigs enhanced our creativity.

As a mother of a 2.5-year-old, I feel it is pertinent to introduce kids to nature and outdoor activities as much as possible. Besides making children happier and reducing their stress, here are few other reasons why connecting your kids to nature can be useful for their physical and mental development. 

  • It stimulates their different senses – Nature may seem less stimulating than your son’s violent video game, but in reality, it activates more senses—you can see, hear, smell, and touch outdoor environments.
  • It promotes their creativity and imagination – This unstructured style of play also allows kids to interact meaningfully with their surroundings. They can think more freely, design their own activities, and approach the world in inventive ways.
  • It fuels their curiosity – Nature creates a unique sense of wonder for kids that no other environment can provide. The phenomena that occur naturally in backyards and parks everyday make kids ask questions about the earth and the life that it supports.
  • It builds their confidence – The way kids play in nature has a lot less structure than most types of indoor play. There are infinite ways to interact with outdoor environments, from the backyard to the park to the local hiking trail or lake, and letting your child choose how he treats nature means he has the power to control his own actions.
  • It teaches them to be responsible – Living things die if mistreated or not taken care of properly, and entrusting a child to take care of the living parts of their environment means they’ll learn what happens when they forget to water a plant or pull a flower out by its roots.
  • It encourages physical activity – Most ways of interacting with nature involve more exercise than sitting on the couch. Your kid doesn’t have to be joining the local soccer team or riding a bike through the park—even a walk will get her blood pumping.

So while screen time is the easier, more popular choice, it’s important to set aside time for outdoor play.

– Meherangiz Sharma, Mother of a 2.5 year old girl