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Parenting in turbulent times 

In the last of a three-week MYD Heart and Let’s Talk Psychologists series on communication, we highlight communication between parents and children in times of turbulence. Dr. Anina du Toit, a certified Clinical Psychologist who often works with children of all ages, gives parents practical tools on how to talk to their children in the time of COVID-19.

The entire world is inundated with information about the Coronavirus pandemic. Children often have access to this information via social media, TV, or from family and friends. Children may find it difficult to comprehend what they are seeing, hearing, and experiencing. School closures, parents working from home, and limited social interaction may cause children to experience feelings of uncertainty, fear, anxiety, stress, and sadness. 

Parents can play a crucial role in helping children understand and cope with the impact of COVID-19. So, what should you tell your children about what the world is going through, and how do you approach this conversation? 

Process your own anxiety first

Take some time to come to terms with your own fears before engaging with your child. Talk to a friend, spouse or therapist to make sure that you are in a good enough space to support your children. Do things that you like to help you relax and stay calm. 

Encourage your children to ask questions

This will allow you an opportunity to assess what they know and what their concerns are. 

Don’t dismiss your child’s fears

Treat all questions with seriousness. No issue is too small. Don’t minimise or avoid concerns. 

Follow their lead

Don’t raise topics your child may not be interested in. This may cause more anxiety and fear. Keep conversations age-appropriate and offer information that they can understand at their developmental level. 

Be open and honest

Answer questions as truthfully as possible without offering more detail than the child asked. If you don’t know, say so! 

Be calm and reassuring

Try not to be upset, your feelings and reactions may transfer to your child and cause unwanted worry. 

Give them a sense of control

Decide on a daily schedule which allows your child enough time for schoolwork and leisure time. Involve your child in the decision-making process to create an opportunity to be held accountable. 

Share household chores

Allow your children to assist with tasks around the house to allow you some free time. Communicate instructions clearly and give guidance in a calm and even voice. Use positive reinforcement to encourage good behaviour and refrain from being overly critical or becoming irritated. 

Since its inception in 2014, Let’s Talk has aimed to provide quality psychological services to the Namibian population. The organisation now has offices in Rehoboth and Okahandja to assist clients who are not able to travel to Windhoek on a regular basis.