As we write this, COVID cases in Australia are thankfully very low, but the situation is always changing and sometimes quickly. If, as we hope, things settle down for the summer, some of our kids may need a bit of extra assistance adjusting as life returns to ‘normal’ or a new version of normal. Here are some things to consider:
Talk to your child
If you’ve spent a long time in isolation or if your child has been away from school for a significant time, they may be anxious about going places over
the summer. Social distancing may be difficult for them to understand and if you choose (or have) to wear masks this may be another obstacle for them to overcome (both in terms of wearing them or seeing other people in them).
If you are able, it’s important to have a conversation with your child to find out where they are at and what their level of understanding is. Ask open ended questions and let them lead any discussion you may have.
Don’t dismiss what your child is feeling by telling them not to worry. Validate what they are feeling and redirect and emphasise the things you can do together such as practicing good hygiene etc.
Chat boards and socials stories can also help immensely with explaining new rules and processes.
Have a plan
Having a little plan of things you’re going to do over the summer break can help quell any anxiety your child may have. You can use a visual planner to communicate the plan, and also make use of those social stories again to go into more detail about what to expect when you do go out and have some much- needed fun.
As is the way of the world now, however, it’s worth communicating too that things may change and you should have a few back up plans ready in case things close at the last minute etc. Get your child involved in the planning and ideas process, explaining the different scenarios as you go as this can help your child’s understanding and anxiety too.
Reinforce good hygiene practices with these fun activities:
The advice is to wash hands for at least 20 seconds and a way to keep kids focused on the task in hand (quite literally) is to sing a song while washing. To keep them motivated, why not let your kids decide on a playlist of different choruses from their favourite tunes.
Do you need help trying to get your child to cough or sneeze into their elbow? Make an elbow monster to assist you!
1. Grab a pen and draw a funny face in the crease of your kid’s elbow.
2. Tell them that it’s their pet Elbow Monster and they have to feed it sneezes and coughs!
Hands to yourself
It’s really tough to teach some of our kids to keep their hands to themselves while out in public and also to avoid touching their face. Try teaching your child to keep hands in their pockets or clasped together or holding an object can work as a distraction too. You could work with an OT to help your child learn strategies to help with this and to give you some strategies to help reinforce new habits.
Dealing with masks and mask wearing
Like the coronavirus itself, the situation regarding masks is ever-changing, and where they’re not mandated it’s also a personal decision as to whether you and your family adopt wearing them. For advice about whether face masks are appropriate for your child, talk to your GP, paediatrician or other healthcare worker.
Regardless, masks are out there in the community and it’s worth working with your child on this aspect of our new existence.
Social stories, developmentally appropriate online videos and other visuals are some of the best ways to introduce the concepts of masks to our children. Your child’s OT or regular therapist can be of enormous help here and will be able to work through any specific issues your child may have.
Remember that children learn through play so setting up some play situations involving masks can be effective in helping children get used to them and explore their feelings. We love these ideas from Raising Children.net which you can adapt for your child’s age or stage of development:
- Make up silly songs or rhymes about face masks. Use plenty of actions.
- Play a game of peekaboo with you mask. Make funny faces each time you take your mask off.
- Give your child a face mask to touch and play with during everyday activities like bath time. For example, your child might like pretending to wash a mask during water play.
- Dress up your child’s favourite soft toys in a face mask. You could use the toys to put on a puppet play.
- Get your child to draw a picture of family members wearing face masks. Or make a collage using pictures of face masks.
- Turn a face mask into an art and craft project. For example, stick streamers to your face mask to turn it into a jelly fish. Or, let your child decorate a face mask for you to wear.
You may find that communicating with your child is more difficult when you’re wearing a mask. Again, Raising Children.net* have some great advice: •
- Turn to face your child and use lots of eye contact.
- Try speaking more loudly, slowly and clearly so your child can hear you through the mask.
- Use exaggerated expressions so that your smile or surprise shows in your eyes.
- Use body language and gestures like nodding and touching your child gently to show you’re listening.
- Play ‘guess the expression’ with your face mask on, using your eyes and eyebrows to show different emotions.
- Play charades to give your child practise in understanding and using body language, hand gestures and movement to communicate.
- Give your child a lot of cuddles and face time when you’re at home together and you’re not wearing a mask.
We hope all of the above help alleviate some of the anxieties and concerns you and your child may have and that you all have a lovely, safe summer break!
Visit raisingchildren.net.au/guides/coronavirus-covid-19-guide for more coronavirus advice and resources.