COVID-19: How to help children cope with coronavirus stress? The Dubai Health Authority answers

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Dubai: Back in 2019, no one would have predicted that the first half of 2020 would look quite like this. From schools being closed and people #stayinghome all around the world to stop the spread of coronavirus, the uncertainty we are living in can take a toll on our mental health.

For children, this could be worse. The Dubai Health Authority, in a recent Instagram post, discussed the “psychological impact of COVID-19 on children” and offered tips on how to overcome it.

With schools being closed in the UAE till June, and with limited going-out access, many would be finding their current environment difficult to adjust to.

Children react differently…

The United Nations (UN) acknowledges the stress children are going through and says that not all children will react to the current situation in the same way. While some may find the current transition easy to adjust to, others might not.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), “If your child has been faced with school closures, cancelled events or separation from friends, they are going to need to feel loved and supported now more than ever.”

In an article on their website, the UN body says that allowing children to feel their emotions, monitoring their behaviour and being calm and approachable, are methods to help them understand the current situation better.

The DHA asks parents to monitor their child’s behaviour and pay attention to a change in eating or sleeping habits. Children could be suffering in silence, and it is important for them to know that they are safe and can talk to someone.

Children in the UAE

Dubai resident, 13-year-old Kavyaa C. told Gulf News: “It’s been really difficult, not being able to go out at all but at the same time not having to physically go to school isn’t the worst. I do miss seeing my friends at school though but I talk to them on video call (Zoom).”

She added that staying at home has allowed her to spend more time with her family.

Seventeen-year old Annaya Krishna misses the social aspect of going to school. She said: “I miss my friends. I miss seeing them.”

The Dubai resident added that staying at home has made her feel more tired. “I feel unmotivated. It takes me a lot to do simple tasks. I am tired all day. I’ve been sleeping a lot these days. I take a three-hour nap!”

Coping methods….

In the guidelines by the DHA, they state: “Children interact with what they see and hear about the pandemic from adults around them…” As a result, “being a good role model”, reassuring them that they are safe and telling them that its “okay to feel upset” are methods to offer psychological support to children during this time.

Since the Internet is flooded with all kinds of information about the pandemic, some not true, the DHA encourages parents to sit down with their children and talk to them about COVID-19, to help them understand the problem and the precautions being taken.

Misinformation can be a cause for stress and can cause children to panic for no reason. On social media, many users have raised the need to help young children and teenagers adjust to this new routine of staying home.

In March, the World Health Organisation (@WHO) tweeted: “During times of stress and crisis, it is common for children to seek more attachment and be more demanding on parents. Discuss the new coronavirus with your children using honest and age-appropriate way.”

Twitter user @leb_obs posted: “So we have a few hundred images on how to stay safe from #CoronaVirus but very few shares on how to cope with the STRESS of an outbreak…. Stay safe everyone!”

Many celebrities have also taken to social media to discuss this topic. Hollywood actor Chris Hemsworth offered a free guide to meditation exercises for children to help them deal with stress.

Accodring to the WHO, new book titled “My Hero is You, How kids can fight COVID-19” helps children understand the virus and cope with th current world situation.

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