Despite the gradual lifting of Singapore’s circuit breaker measures, some parents may still choose to keep their little ones at home due to personal preferences. Moreover, during the period between now and when families can get back to their normal routines, social distancing measures will still need to be observed, and socialising and venturing out will be kept at a minimum.

For preschoolers and young children, this could mean that they miss out on opportunities to socialise, which is an important part of a child’s healthy development.

Dr Carol Loy, Curriculum Director at Kinderland shares a guide on how parents can help their little ones, across varying ages, to cope with these new social norms.

For babies (infant to 2 years)

Managing infants during COVID19Image credit: Kinderland

Ensure little ones are meeting their milestones, and constantly change up their environment, such as providing new toys that they can play with or play interactive games with them.

For example, at six months old, a toddler will begin to recognise objects. Parents can ride on their child’s expanding capabilities by getting them to recognise and pick two to three objects that they commonly play with to explore.

Between 9 months to 12 months is where a toddler is learning how to stand and is building his or her gross motor skills. At Kinderland, standing bars are used to provide aid and guidance to help toddlers strengthen their muscles and standing skills. During this period at home, parents can provide a similar form of support for their toddler, such as having the help of a sturdy low table to give them something to hold on to.

For toddlers (2 years to 4 years)

How to help kids manage social distancingImage credit: Kinderland

At this age, children may not have sufficient vocabulary to express themselves properly and may act out through temper tantrums or becoming unlike themselves. Parents can experiment with various communication techniques or check out sensorial activities that they can do with their children.

Related Read: 6 Stay-Home Activities Your Kids Will Love

For example, parents can develop a sheet with pictures of objects, and have their child point to what they want, or act out what they want. Reading a book and engaging their child to role-play a character in the story helps them in expressing themselves as well.

Encouraging imaginative play can also help children express emotions or thoughts they are unable to verbally express or are confused about, especially if they are younger, as they may not have the language skills to talk about their emotions yet.

For older children (4 years to 6 years)

Social distancing with young children

As they grow older, children should be able to express themselves better. Hence, a way to keep them stimulated is to get them thinking of how things run at home, for example, how the light turns on with just a switch.

Parents can and should also constantly check in with their child to ensure that they understand the current situation and involve them in creating a routine that will provide some semblance of normalcy. Encouraging them to share their feelings or rationale behind doing certain things will help them to express themselves better.

With families facing sequestered time at home, it wouldn’t be surprising to know that parents have set up schedules for playtime activities, chores and routines for their children to follow. However, parents should also consider this as a perfect opportunity to turn the focus to core family values.

Come up with a list of values that suits the family’s needs, and are applicable to everyone in the family, regardless of age. Discuss the list as a family and ensure that the children respond with an example so that they understand what it means. Here are some examples:

Coping with COVID-19 as a familyBeating the isolation blues

Younger children may experience emotional distress when their routines have been disrupted. The loss of normalcy in their lives can be overwhelming for the limited coping skills children have.

As children process information over time, they may have a better understanding of the situation after a week or two. Parents should communicate regularly about the current happenings and how the child is feeling, even if it seems repetitive.

Related Read: 10 Ways to Help Kids Cope With the COVID-19 Pandemic

Therefore, the most important thing would be for parents to consciously try to model a sense of emotional wellbeing and calmness, even where they are stressed or anxious. Children are more attuned to and will take cues from the actions and body language of the people around them than to their words, and will pick up if their parents are in distress.

This article is contributed by Dr Carol Loy, Curriculum Director at Kinderland.

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