COVID-19 outbreak: Advisory for mental health, psychosocial support for children, families

JAMMU, APRIL 12: The Government has issued an advisory for addressing Mental Health and Psychosocial Aspects of children and families during COVID-19 Outbreak.

Developed by the IASC’s Reference Group on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support, the Advisory calls for as under;

Encourage active listening and an understanding attitude with the children: Children may respond to a difficult situation in different ways. Children usually feel relieved if they are to express and communicate their disturbing feelings in a safe and supportive environment.

Every child has his/her own way to express emotions: Sometimes engaging in a creative activity, such as playing and drawing can facilitate this process. Help children to find positive ways to express disturbing feelings such as anger, fear and sadness.

Encourage an increased sensitive and caring environment around the children: Children need adults’ love and often more dedicated attention during difficult times. Remember that children often take their emotional cues from the adults in their lives, so how adults respond to the crisis is very important. It’s important that adults manage their own emotions well and remain calm, listen to children’s concerns and speak kindly to them and reassure them. If possible and depending on the age, parents / caregivers should express their love for the children and reiterate they are proud of them. This will make them feel better and safer.

 If possible, make opportunities for children to play & relax: Keep children close to their parents and family, if considered safe for the child, and avoid separating children and their caregivers as much as possible.

If a child needs to be separated from his/her primary caregiver: Ensure that appropriate alternative care is provided and that a social worker, or equivalent, will regularly follow up on the child. Also ensure regular and frequent contact (e.g. via phone, video calls) with the primary caregiver and reassurance them. Ensure all child protection and safeguarding measures are addressed.

Keep regular routines and schedules as much as possible or help to create new ones in a new environment, including learning, playing and relaxing. If possible, maintain schoolwork, study or other routine activities that do not endanger children or go against health authorities.

Provide facts about what is going on: Give clear child-friendly information about how to reduce risk of infection and stay safe in words they can understand. Demonstrate to children how they can keep themselves safe (e.g., show them effective handwashing)

Avoid speculating rumours in front of children: Provide information about what has happened or could happen in a reassuring, honest and age-appropriate way.

Support adults/caregivers with activities for children during isolation: Activities should explain the virus; Also Keep children active when they are not at school, for example Hand washing games with rhymes; Imaginary stories about the virus exploring the body; Make cleaning and disinfecting the house into a fun game; Draw pictures of virus/microbes’ that to be coloured by children.

Advisory by Child Guidance and Well Being Center -a nodal Center for Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (IMHANS), Kashmir:

Stay connected in virtual world through phones, WhatsApp, etc: You can make groups on various social media platforms, of extended families and friends. Ask about well being of each other, but don’t remain stuck with Corona talk. Use humour and reassurances liberally. Remind each other of previous difficult situations from which we emerged unscathed. If you are not able to force one, smile on video calls.

          Neighbours should continue chatting and socialising through windows (provided that windows are 2 meters apart) as was norm in yesteryears. Revive the old tradition of ‘Daraev kin darbar’.

·        During social distancing, vulnerability of children to abuse increases. So, be vigilant and make sure within families if children are safe.

·        Don’t make children fearful. Educate them in a way that it doesn’t seem end of the world. When we teach our children how to cross the road, we don’t make them fearful by talking about worst accidents, but we just teach them how to be safe.

·        Keep your children engaged by innovating play methods. Most of us try to restrict mobile and TV use by kids, but this time it seems to be a safer alternative to playing with other children. Do watch what your children are viewing and schedule their screen timing. Keep regular routines and schedules as much as possible, or help them to create new ones in new environment.

·        Don’t watch hyperbolic news channels, especially in front of your kids. In older children, this is the best time to inculcate habit of book /comic reading and storytelling.

·        Reading books of your interest, resting and sleeping in appropriate doses will all help.

·        Lonely walks within your premises wherever possible can be very refreshing.

·        Humour is important. As adults, we understand that it is an immense crisis but that should not prevent us from cracking a joke. Don’t scold kids for laughing out loud. Let us live in present, moment by moment. Past is gone and future is not in our control. Think of things that are in our control.

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