‘Involve children in COVID-19 conversations too,’ counsellor says

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By Kadeem Joseph

A counsellor is urging parents to take time and explain the impact of the coronavirus to their children, to avoid displays of negative emotions and behaviours.

 PhD candidate in psychology, Renée Smith, believes it is important to not only ensure that children are properly advised on good hygiene, but parents must also ensure that children understand that the virus is “not a death sentence”.

“Let them know that the majority of people who get the coronavirus actually get better, because children might not be able to articulate how they’re feeling to us readily,” she explained.

Smith said, because of these complex emotions, children may display behaviours that are not customary, and which may leave their parents baffled.

“But it is because this poor child has this thing that they’re trying to process in their mind, and parents probably are not realising what is going on,” she added.

The counsellor is advising parents to allow their children to express how they feel, and after they have educated themselves about the COVID-19 virus, to “guide” their children to a better understanding of the matter.

Meanwhile, the PhD candidate is also reminding residents to be mindful of their mental health as the country continues to ramp up efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Smith said proper mental health is a key part of getting through crises, adding that many people are panicking instead of approaching the matter of the virus strategically.

“We have to guard our mental health so that we are able to make sound decisions as we navigate our way through the situation that we’re faced with,” she said. “And so we have to not panic, because panic is going to weaken our immune system, which is also going to put us in a position of being more susceptible to catching this virus.”

She also explained that, during these instances, people often feel anxious and depressed, while individuals with preexisting mental issues are at greater risk of displaying symptoms, or worrisome behaviour.

Smith warned residents against obsessively researching the virus, urged people to get information from credible sources and to keep their lives “as normal as possible”.

Turning to drugs to relieve stress is another warning from Smith.

“We have to make sure that we’re handling our issues in helpful ways and not ways that are going to create further issues for us,” she explained. “We have come to a time when drugs and alcohol [use] is on the rise and everybody thinks that’s the way to relieve stress.” She said that it is “really important” to understand that excessive use of drugs and alcohol “is not helpful” since it can lead to further problems.

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