Bonding with children during the time of COVID-19

Story – Gautam Viswanathan
It is true that the arrival of COVID-19 to Oman and the rest of the world has forced nearly all of us to stay indoors to avoid catching the disease and spreading infection.
While it is natural for us to acclimatise to the new measures, because of the disruptions it has caused to our lives, some parents have decided to use this time to become closer to their children, teaching them the value of hygiene, cleanliness and staying safe.

We listen to the needs of our children
To be honest, because we keep our children indoors, they don’t go outside. However, our children who are between the ages of 12 and 16 sometimes want to go outside and have a chat with their friends. So we try to keep them occupied and listen to their needs as well.

Our younger children ask for PlayStation and video games, so we try to provide them games so that they stay at home. We have always followed hygienic practices of washing our hands with soap, so we’ve continued doing so now as well. However, we don’t keep an obsessive watch on them. There is no need to clean your hands in desperation every few minutes.

Jassim Al Balushi, Deputy Head of Training and Professional Development, College of Engineering, National University of Science and Technology

Children start to innovate when they get bored
We’ve taken out all the board games that were stacked one on top of the other to entertain ourselves. We play games like Monopoly and Scrabble. Notices have been put up inside the building instructing people not to meet. Children do get bored sometimes and ask me to take them outside.

Parents nowadays get very anxious when their children tell them they’re feeling bored. It’s okay for them to feel bored. Parents today feel they must immediately entertain their child and hand them a phone or an iPad so that they can entertain themselves, or take them out for a drive, or order food from outside. It’s only when a child gets bored that he gets innovative. Until a few days ago, my son used to tell me he felt bored about 14 times a day.

Now, he does not ask any more. He has found his own ways of keeping himself entertained, along with his little brother. It might, for them, be something as simple as jumping on a mattress, chasing each other around the home, or playing with their toys. At times like these, let your children explore, let them create a mess, it’s okay, as long as they are safe.

Anuya Phule, clinical psychotherapist, Hatat Polyclinic

This is the best time to educate our children
This is a great time to educate your children on staying well and maintain their hygiene. Because my children are so young, I have a feeling this will shape their view on how important it is to stay clean and keep surfaces and areas clean, so that the chances of infection are reduced. They have an hour of colouring in the morning, followed by an hour of schoolwork, and whatever else they need to do after that.

They are learning a lot from YouTube, under supervision, because there are a lot of these little cartoons that clearly explain what viruses are and what they do to the body. I used to take my children to play in the park pretty often, but they realise that it’s for their own benefit that they can’t go now.

They do ask me, however, why they are unable to go to school at the moment. Even before the schools shut down, their school gave them a little presentation on how the virus spread, so it was nice for the school to explain this to the children.
We wake up at the same time, they’re on the same schedule they would be if they were going to school. We are now spending more time together, and so there is less rush now. We have a longer breakfast, for example, so that we can spend time as a family. Because my two boys are still small, I have put together a schedule for them.
This way, they learn a lot about personal hygiene and why they need to wash their hands.

With us being role models, the children have begun understanding what we’re doing differently now, that we did not do before. We also explain to the children why we are doing this.
I know the economy has taken a big hit at the moment, but I am thankful that we actually got this time to spend together. I otherwise do not get so much time to spend with my kids. My kids are absolutely fine if they don’t go out every few days. We didn’t go out every week or every two weeks when we were younger, and that was okay for us.

Maimunah Shebani, founder, The Retail Centre

We can now spend more time as a family
I told my daughter that there is a virus epidemic present and it was infecting people, and that was why she wasn’t going to school. We do spend plenty of time at home, and I showed her through a scientific experiment how staying clean kept the virus away.
There is an experiment involving water and pepper, in which you put some pepper in water. When you touch it, the pepper sticks to your finger, but when you wash your pepper-covered finger with water, the pepper moves away from the finger. This was a small experiment my husband and I used to show my daughter the importance of keeping clean.
Children are not every aware of how diseases like COVID-19 are transmitted, so it is important we educated them in a way that helps them understand.
While she is unable to go to school at the moment, she is also happy, because we are able to spend time together as a family. We can’t go out at the moment, but we are taking staying at home in the right spirit.

I try to involve my daughter in the household chores that I do. There is a lot of cooking happening at home at the moment so I am trying to get the family interested in that. We also play a lot of games to keep ourselves busy. You need to look at the positive side to such things, because we are far luckier than others who are suffering from the disease.

Nusreen Sahil, food blogger