Being with and Engaging Children at Home

“Every child comes with the message that God is not yet discouraged of man,” that is what Rabindranath Tagore an Indian poet said. Children are dimensions of love, fountains of curiosity, evidence of activeness, types of questionnaires, tutors for parents, pillar of future societies, stars of confidence and preachers of responsibilities to their parents. We could add many more to the list since children are always showing us the way. 

Impact of the COVID-19 on Children
At this time, when the world is in turmoil, and we are having to re-assess how we live, children and their importance in the world’s well-being is of priority. In this context, according to Henrietta H. Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, children are also the victims of COVID-19 itself and their future is under threat. Due to lock down and movement restrictions, they are out of school and for many it is the only place they find education and food. Health systems in their countries are overwhelmed and many children under lock down are at risk of violence and abuse. This is further precipitated for children already living under humanitarian crises.

“The future depends on what we do today.” In bringing these words of Mahatma Gandhi true, every year, Shanti Ashram reaches out to nearly 70,000 children with partners’ support. During this pandemic in particular, Shanti Ashram is reaching out to children at many levels and this ultimately responds to Arigatou International’s response to the pandemic. The current key initiatives of Shanti Ashram are interfaith collaboration initiatives, encouraging children participation, food security to most vulnerable families, using social media and online platforms, and engaging health care institutions.

As I see it:
Children are noted for their activeness and curiosity. But now that they are stuck within the confines of their homes. The responsibility and awareness of parents plays a vital role. Generally, children teach us and make us be active and responsive too. At this time, parents have to put more effort to keep pace with children’s energy and their ideas.

As Dr. Lakshmi Shanthi, a consultant Pediatrician and former office bearer of the Indian Academy of Pediatrics said, “Children can be engaged with age-appropriate games and involved in cleaning and cooking activities, however small their role may be.” Children are curios to learn new things, and expect the same from parents, such that the parents should be ready to answer the endless questions children may have, related to the tasks.

I have been working with children for more than 2 decades but this lockdown period has given me the time to use my experience to engage with my own children at home through various activities. With my own parental experience and similar discussions with other parents, I have listed some positives and challenges that this unprecedented lockdown has brought to us. I invite you to read them and observe your children more closely during this period. Of course one way to reduce stress and maximize positive outcome is to do things with children. One practical example of this is preparing a schedule for the day. Parents should schedule tasks for the day and follow through.

The pros of doing such a planned schedule and tasks are:

  1. Children come to know more about their parents if they do it together
  2. They learn new things
  3. They can learn about planning and implementation
  4. They learn to help parents
  5. They understand the ethics of life practically
  6. They learn about empathy and responsibility
  7. They learn to respect the needs of others

At home, children and parents may face many challenges both physical and mental. They include:

  1. Mental stress or pressure
  2. Children can test your limits
  3. Children living in poverty can experience hunger and undergo starvation
  4. Older children particularly adolescents are prone to explore high-risk behaviors since they are not going to school for a reasonable time and may be bored if not fully engaged
  5. Loss of routine lifestyle leads to insomnia and laziness
  6. Can become spectators of improper social networking and Internet misuse
  7. They may consume more of unwanted junk food and thus impact their health

As stated by Rev. Keishi Miyamoto, President of Arigatou International, we must keep in mind that children are very vulnerable to the impact of the pandemic, and we need to listen to their voices and stand by them. It is the responsibility of each and every parent to take steps to help their children learn practical life lessons. Children could engage in art, storytelling, indoor activities, online courses, sharing good practices, conversing in telephone with friends and relatives, following world news, gardening, practicing personal hygiene, and help in household chores.

“There is no school equal to a descent home and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.” As Mahatma Gandhi once said, parents have to make an effort in nurturing their children’s attitude to a lifetime of learning and for their bright future. This is the right time for parents to practice this. Engaging with your children develops friendship and trust between you and them. Let us utilize this period to understand our children and give them an opportunity to also understand and interact with us. Let us together defend and knock down the effects this pandemic could have on children. May all of us stay well and safe!