COVID-19: Be your child’s first source of information

Monday March 23 2020

As a parent, look for fun ways to teach your

As a parent, look for fun ways to teach your children basic hygiene measures such as washing their hands. Internet Photo 

By ESTHER OLUKA

Patricia Kirya picked her eight-year-old daughter from boarding school last week. This was after President Museveni on the previous day made an announcement during part of his state of the nation address that schools should close for 32 days as a precautionary measure towards fighting the virus.

And so parents like Kirya heeded to the announcement and picked their children from school on the following days. Here is the thing though, ever since she brought her daughter back home, Kirya says she has been asking all sorts of questions about coronavirus.

“She asks whether she is going to get sick. Will she die? What can she do to ensure she does not get sick, among other questions,” Kirya says.

Calm down their anxiety
In response, Kirya has been re-assuring her daughter that there is no need to over worry.

“I was honest and told her that yes, this disease is real and affecting a number of people. I told her the different ways people get it, the signs and symptoms as well as some of the ways of avoiding it, “Kirya says, adding, “Because she is a child, I had to talk to her in a calm and reassuring way so that she gets re-assured that actually, there is no need to fear.”

Besides using the technique of re-assurance, there are other considerations to bear in mind when talking to your child about coronavirus.

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Protection
Dr Alex Kakoraki, a general practitioner, Kampala, says it is important to demonstrate safe-hygiene practices to your child.

“Rather than just telling them to frequently wash their hands, go ahead and show them how to,” he says, adding, “Get soap and water and illustrate how hands should be thoroughly washed.”

Since hugging and hand shaking have been banned, Dr Kakoraki says adults could also show children the other ways of relating with people. For example, the child can be told to either wave or bow their head when greeting.

Overall, encourage children to observe good-hygiene practices but as you do so, ensure you also monitor them constantly.

Asking questions
Like adults, children are scared. They are hearing a lot of things about this pandemic from multiple sources including television, radio, newspapers, family members and friends, among other sources.

And it is for this reason that parents and caretakers should encourage them to ask all sorts of questions regarding the virus.

“Encouraging them to ask questions helps adults address some of their concerns, fears and at the same time, make clarifications since there is also a lot of misinformation,” says Ann Musoke, a pediatrician.

Musoke says even if your child is not the talkative type, parents should not ignore them. They may be struggling with their own silent fears. If they are still reluctant to talk, change the tactics.

“For example, ask them if they have heard any information about the pandemic. I am certain they will say something. You then continue the conversation from there,” Musoke says.

Too much information
Whatever discussions adults choose to have with their children concerning coronavirus, it is important they are not bombarded with too much information.
“Do not go into so much detail during conversations. There is a possibility of you overwhelming the child and in the end, they become so anxious,” Samson Okello, a practicing child welfare social worker says.
Mind the kind of information you share with the child. Let it be only what is important, Okello advises.

Below the age of four
For these children, Musoke says, parents may need to monitor them often because talking to them about the pandemic will not yield much result.

eoluka@ug.nationmedia.com

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