As the whole world is undergoing lockdown and quarantine, Bangladesh has also added its name on the list. The government has already declared it will keep educational institutions - schools, colleges and universities - closed till the end of March. Some corporate offices have already offered work from home opportunities to their employees as a protective measure to safeguard their employees from the outbreak of novel coronavirus.
The educational institutes, as a result, will conduct online classes and service holders will be able to work from home. The government directive has already held up many children and parents at home, and as a result, many parents are finding themselves in a chaotic situation with their kids watching TV or YouTube videos, lazing around or fighting with their siblings.
Saima Akhter, an M Phil Researcher in clinical psychology at the University of Dhaka, suggests that the time spent in quarantine can be a good parenting opportunity as working parents do not get enough time to spend with their kids. "This will be a good chance to truly focus on them," she says.
For preschool-age kids and younger children, Saima Akhter advises interactive learning and play therapy for communication development. "Reading interactively with children is very beneficial for language and literacy instruction. It can help with moral development as well," she said.
She also recommends parents to be attentive when young children are playing with toys as they may show patterns linked to their characteristics and needs.
Playing with kids
Children have way more energy than adults and it shows when they continue to ask questions or do not stop jumping up and down for a good stretch of time on the sofa. And if they are told not to do so, they will pick up smartphones or other smart devices to play video games.
Saima says, "Kids these days burn up their energy using electronic devices because they cannot go outside much. So when you see your kid coming up with a surge of energy, have a playful attitude towards it and try to match the energy level. Play with them a little."
Get kids colourful toys
Kids around three or four years of age are drawn to colourful things. So getting them colourful crayons or play-doh to play with will keep their hands and minds busy for quite some time.
It will also help the kids develop an artistic side you never knew your child had.
Teaching kids to do things on their own
Parents can also use this newfound time to help their kids as young as four or five years of age to eat with their own hand properly or clean after themselves. But if you see them struggling to do something on their own, encourage them to ask for help.
For kids older than five or six, who are aged between seven or eight, Saima suggests the parents to teach their kids to make their own beds and put away their books and toys properly.
"We expect kids to start doing things on their own at this age. Fixing their beds or putting away their books and toys can be a good start. Parents should also keep a reward system and not forget to praise them when they do their work properly."
This will also habituate the kids to help their parents with small household chores like knowing salt from sugar while cooking.
Connecting with older kids
Adolescents may have the hardest time of all to be in quarantine. Teenagers build up peer relationships and social media has become the most preferable option for most. In quarantine, mobile phones are the only way for communication and entertainment. But many parents are concerned about the vast world of the internet. And many times they transfer their concerns to their adolescent children by restricting them from using the internet. This creates a conflict among the two groups.
To minimize the effect of such conflicts, Saima suggests the parents to put this time to good use and connect with their kids.
"Adolescents have a hard time expressing themselves. Parents need to be more understanding of their feelings. This quarantined situation gives them the time needed to be around each other and have a meaningful conversation. This will help them to understand each other and build a trustworthy relationship."
Playing for long will bore kids out
When kids are content after a good few hours of playing, education will seem interesting to them.
Saima says, "If kids are happy playing and that is all they get to do, they will eventually turn to books to study. Also, if teachers can take online classes, the children will easily adapt as technology attracts them, and online classes seem to be the perfect medium."
But what about the times when kids are being unruly? The psychologist is strictly against physical or verbal punishments. "Isolate the kids for two to three minutes when no one will interact with them. Let them be on their own so they can reflect on their mistakes. By the two to three minutes, they will realise their wrongdoings and calm down."
Most importantly, Saima suggests the parents to plan activities for kids beforehand. Kids get bored easily and making a list of activities they can do after every other measure to entertain them fails can save the parents a lot of efforts which may not even be fruitful.
"Listen to the kids while planning the activities. Take their suggestions because after all, it is for them. It will also make them feel included," says Saima.
Of course, this quarantine means parents need to look after the kids for the eight-ish hours they used to spend in school, on top of the parents' daily routine of making parenting an all-day, every-day job. And those parents working from home also have the challenge of keeping their kids independently occupied so that they themselves can work. But keeping patience is the key.
Kids go through a lot at school too. The daily experience is not always the best. So pack the kids with positivity and love during this time which will boost their energy when the lockdown is over and schools resume.