JEDDAH: Humans are social beings and we find it difficult to be confined in one place for an extended time. Sometimes, however, we have to swallow this bitter pill for our own protection, as now to check the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Adults may find it easier to understand the situation but children can find it harder to understand such vagaries of life. We as parents need to support them so that they can emerge from this state unharmed.
Arab News spoke to some experts who offered their insights on this issue.
“People do not tend to stay in one place for long periods. If forced to do so, they may feel uncomfortable. They are social in nature and love to move from one place to another,” said Dr. Salim S. Al-Shehri, director of counseling and guidance department at the General Directorate of Education in Taif.
He said the measures taken to counter the spread of COVID-19 are for people’s own good but it is natural for them to feel uncomfortable.
“The effects of this uncomfortable situation are worse for young children and adolescents because they are passing through a social and emotional development stage that is characterized by vibrancy and an unbridled desire to move, play and meet peers and friends,” Al-Shehri said.
“Therefore, parents should understand how their children feel and respond wisely. Parents should also participate in their children’s activities at home and talk to them to compensate for their inability to meet friends,” he said.
Al-Shehri warned that frequent discussions about the virus in front of children, either directly or through TV channels, may make them anxious. He said that asking them repeatedly to follow preventive methods such as washing hands or using disinfectants may also result in serious psychological problems such as obsessive-compulsive disorder that can lead to more health issues.
He warned against continuously talking about the seriousness of the situation in the presence of children.
“Moreover, parents should make it clear to their children that they are safe as long as they stay at home. Parents should not show any fear or anxiety in front of their children or repeat warnings, as not to increase their children’s worries and emotional distress,” Al-Shehri said.
He said that parents should also highlight the heroic roles health practitioners are playing to keep the people safe from disease.
Al-Shehri urged parents to understand the emotional needs of their children and treat them with kindness, as they are too young to understand everything. Parents should try to overlook their children’s small mistakes, he said.
Another issue is children’s dietary habits. Rowaidah Nohad Idriss, a Saudi dietitian, said that early childhood is an important time to establish healthy eating patterns.
“A balanced diet is key to healthy eating habits because it provides children with the nutrients they need to grow. Such a diet should contain three daily meals and two healthy snacks with foods containing proteins, carbohydrates, fruit, vegetables, dairy foods, some fat and sugar,” she said.
She added that children’s food consumption should be controlled during the lockdown, as youngsters spend many hours in front of computers and are less active than is ideal.
“This way of life also has a major impact on children. Several studies have shown that there is a correlation between the hours spent sitting in front of devices and obesity,” Idriss said.
She said that encouraging children to get involved in house activities could help to control their weight.
“Children who are physically active also develop better social skills, are more self-confident, and this can maintain their emotional stability, which can lead to strong self-esteem,” the dietitian said.
Idriss said that parents should try to expose their children to the sun so that their bodies get the required amount of vitamin D; as it helps bones grow stronger and develop properly.
“Most children won’t get enough vitamin D only from the sun, but food with lots of vitamin D can add to what a child gets from sunshine. Foods naturally containing vitamin D include fresh fatty fish (salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines), liver, some mushrooms and egg yolks,” she said.
Commenting on the bad habit of staying up late, that children have developed due to the suspension of schools after the COVID-19 pandemic, Idriss said that it is their parents’ responsibility to ensure they sleep on time.
“A recent study, published online by the International Journal of Obesity, has revealed that the amount of sleep a child gets can have a significant impact on his weight,” she said. “In general, kindergartners should get 10 to 12 hours per night. This amount can decrease slightly each year. The real problem is not about sleeping, but it is in the amount and kind of food they load their body with at night without any physical activities. Enough sleep can help them control the amount of food they consume.”
Lack of sleep, she said, is linked to overeating, especially junk food, which can lead them to gain weight.
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Source: AN-Food and Health
Dealing with children tactfully to help them manage lockdown stress