As the UK steps up measures to halt the spread of the coronavirus, parents could be left scrambling to adjust their daily routines amid looming school closures.
Schools could be ordered closed at a later point, the Government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance revealed, as the prime minister urged the public on Monday to avoid non-essential contacts and travel.
The clinical psychologist Karen Millett shares her top tips to ease parental pressures during the pandemic.
Diffuse coronavirus panic and normalise the situation
Children tend to pick up anxiety from their entourage, Millett says. “It”s important that parents remain calm, deal with the facts and limit the amount of time that they spend on the news, limit the amount of time that they spend talking about it, and try to make the new abnormal as normal as possible,” she says.
“We are going through an unprecedented time that we haven’t been through before,” she says. “Children need to be reassured that this is a precaution, that this illness doesn’t seem to having a significant impact on children’s physical health and that it’s about protecting those people who are vulnerable in society.”
“It’s about saying that this virus is a bit like chickenpox or other viruses that they might have heard about, that they know that people may get and that people may recover from,” she adds.
Limit the time spent in front of screens
Parents should try keep the time spent in front of screens to normal levels or reach an agreement with their children, a challenge Millett predicts could be a “big battle for parents.”
Seek support from other parents and look after themselves
Adults should deploy strategies to manage their own anxiety levels and look after their own well-being, Millett says, urging parents to exchange tips and offer support on FaceTime.
“That will have a positive impact on their ability to cope with their child, so things like limiting the amount of time they actually talk about the virus in front of the children,” she says.
“Parents that don’t look after themselves are not going to be in a position to look after their children,” she adds.
Maintain a structure to the day if self-isolating
Self-isolating or quarantined families should try to maintain a school-like structure to the day and plan ahead several activities to “pull out of the bag when needed.”
A typical routine could involve “getting dressed, having an activity in the morning, then maybe having some relaxation time, lunch, activity, relaxation time,” she says.
“Really think now about the kind of thing that can be done, whether or not it’s a treasure hunt around the house or different kinds of activities that could be done to pull out of the bag when needed, but it is going to be challenging, but having a structure to the day is really important,” she says.