July 1, 2020 Hello Kids

Australian family life during COVID-19

Kids in Japan, Australia and around the world have been forced to stay home from school with travel also restricted due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. This situation has placed stress on many families, but there are ways parents can help manage it and alleviate fear among children.

Australian family life in 2020 since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic has been far from normal. Schools were shut for a number of weeks and travel both overseas and within Australia has been severely restricted.

Grandparents have been unable to see their grandkids, while kids have missed out playing with their friends at school. Sporting activities have been suspended, cinemas closed and restaurants and shops shuttered.

While the restrictions have been gradually eased, with schools largely reopened in June, fears of a second wave have prevented a complete return to “normal” life.

For example, Queensland state, where Hello Kids operates, has declared its borders will reopen on July 10, but visitors from the southern state of Victoria still face restrictions even after this date.

Australians are also prohibited from travelling overseas unless granted an exemption, while the nation’s borders are closed to overseas visitors, except for citizens, permanent residents or their families.

While wearing a face mask has become part of daily life in Japan, in Australia it is still only voluntary. However, citizens have been asked to maintain “social distancing” by keeping 1.5 metres away from others, washing hands regularly and getting tested if any symptoms occur.

Fortunately, Australia has had a small number of COVID-19 cases compared to many countries. As of June 30, the Department of Health had reported a total of 7,834 cases, with 104 deaths, largely of elderly people aged 70 and above.

However, while Australia’s situation may have stabilised, fears remain and children are susceptible to anxiety over the constant bad news in the media.


Talking to kids

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state children may worry about themselves, their family and friends getting ill with COVID-19. Parents and other trusted adults can help children make sense of the situation and reduce their anxiety through a number of methods:

* Stay calm – try and remain calm when talking to your children, since they will react to both what you say and how you say it.

* Reassure children they are safe – let them know it is okay if they feel upset or stressed.

* Make yourself available to listen and talk to your children.

* Avoid language that might blame others and cause stigma.

* Pay attention to what children see and hear on television, radio or online. Too much information on COVID-19 can lead to anxiety.

* Provide information that is truthful and appropriate for your child’s age and developmental level. Some information on the internet and social media may be inaccurate, so make sure they get the right information.

* Teach children daily actions to reduce the spread of germs, such as washing their hands frequently and avoiding people who are coughing or sneezing. Make sure they cough or sneeze into a tissue or their elbow.

* Discuss the situation at school and actions being taken to protect children and staff.

The Australian Red Cross also has a number of tips for parents on how to explain COVID-19 to children, such as describing what germs are, how they spread and how to prevent it spreading further.

When self-isolating, the charitable organisation suggests parents give kids “a sense of being in control” such as by getting them involved in family plans, checking in on friends and relatives via telephone or video calls and undertaking community volunteering activities, such as delivering food parcels to neighbours.

A helpful resource for parents is the charity’s “kids activity kit” which gives kids at home some engaging activities while parents are busy working. The charity also has advice on helping kids learning at home, as well as tips on staying physically active.

One benefit of the enforced lockdown from COVID-19 is many families have been brought together closer than ever before. With the kids baking in the kitchen and parents working remotely via computer, family life has taken a different but enjoyable turn.

Will life ever return to its pre-pandemic state again? Only time will tell, but in the meantime Australians – and citizens worldwide – anxiously await a return to normal activities such as eating out, shopping and travelling without the fear of COVID-19.

(HelloKids –  Yuta)