How much should you tell your children?
There are also ways parents can help children understand the transition from wearing masks, to a more normal life.
“Discuss these changes with age-appropriate information included, ask them questions about their observations and let them ask you questions in return,” Dr Sheen says.
“Approach change with curiosity, interest and a sense of challenge rather than with fear. Also, make sure you role model this.”
Being totally open with your kids about your work is very important at all times. According to Dr Sheen, children need to know some aspects about your life and what is going on for you.
“We need to provide developmentally appropriate information to children about change to contain anxiety, role model transparent and open communication and provide security in the face of change. The key component here is developmentally appropriate.,” Dr Sheen said.
“If you consider the material inappropriate for the child's age and stage of development then it is okay to set a boundary and let them know that as the adult you are managing the situation and they don't need the details. If it directly impacts them however, consider giving them as much information as they need to answer their questions, in language they will understand.”
When 40-year-old Susan worked from home during lockdown, she found it brought her closer to her three-year-old daughter. She explained to her child in simple terms about what was happening. She also told her daughter that they would have more time together during her work breaks – as well as before and after work, due to not having to commute to the office.
“She embraced having mummy at home 24/7 and I also loved being there for her. Sure, it was tricky from time to time, especially if I was on the phone to a client and she had a melt down! But it also meant that we were able to watch movies together, cook pancakes, take the dog for walks and snuggle up on the sofa to read books,” Susan says.
“As a single parent, this was so important to me and I cherished those days. But, when I went back to the office and my daughter was having a mixture of day care and my mother looking after her, I felt that she really missed me more than ever.”
The importance of quality time with children
Susan dealt with her daughter’s emotions by talking about the transition and also making sure that, when she was home from work, she gave her daughter quality time.
“But I felt sad for her. She was so used to having me around her all the time, and then I was gone! I know it was confusing for her. I am lucky to have my mother living nearby and she has been able to be with her two days a week, but I know my daughter missed me very much and that was kind of heartbreaking,” Susan says.
Dr Sheen said it’s crucial to ask your children to talk about their feelings about COVID-19 issues, and ask about how they are feeling now that the restrictions have lifted.
“Whether it's COVID-19 related or not, we need to encourage children to talk about their feelings through the course of their lives. Doing so can:
- Support the development of close, connected family relationships
- Improve the child's ability to reflect on their emotional state
- Improve emotion literacy and problem solving
- Improve wellbeing
- Improve mental health outcomes later in life."