How Parents Can Deal With Stress During COVID-19
Being a parent is more stress than anyone could ever bargain for. But being a parent during a catastrophic pandemic? That’s something else entirely. We know that caring for your child during these trying times is incredibly difficult. But fear not, these simple tips can help you bond with your child positively and help manage his or her emotions.
1. Talk About Fear:
Fear has been an unwelcome, but commonly experienced emotion over the last two years. Children rely almost entirely on their parents for comfort when faced with fear, hence it is vital that you reassure your child and help them feel emotionally safe.
- Answer any questions about the pandemic in a concise yet candid manner.
- Stay in touch with your loved ones, like grandparents, cousins, or friends to help ease feelings of isolation.
- Inform your child before stepping out of the house
- Give more hugs
- Be a good role model and talk through how you are managing your own feelings
- Talk positively about the future
2. Structure and Routine:
Though difficult during lockdown and quarantine, it is all the more important for you to establish routine in your kid’s life. A sense of order and discipline will go a long way in reassuring them that nothing much has changed, and things will soon come back to normal. Establish concrete wake-up and bedtime routines, mealtimes, and schoolwork timings. It is also important to inculcate exercise, chores, online activities with peers, and family time into their routine.
It may be extra hard to get your kids to go to bed on time, so establish a “Book Brush Bed” policy for younger children. Read a book with your child before bedtime, and insist on no screens after 8pm. This will ensure your child has a healthy sleep-wake cycle even during home quarantine.
3. Positive Discipline:
No parent takes pleasure in rigorously disciplining their child. However, times like these will involve very tricky emotions, and thus very tricky behaviour. Younger children will not be able to properly vocalize how they feel, which may cause them to act out their anger or stress. Meanwhile, teenagers may become irritable since they will feel like they are missing out some of the best years of their lives. It is important to validate these feelings, but also keep a firm hand over what is or isn't acceptable behavior.
- Redirect bad behavior
- Engage your kids creatively
- Reward your kids to reinforce good behavior
- Utilize time-out if necessary, and have as little emotion as possible when correcting them
- Do not use corporal punishment
Remember that your mental health is just as important as your child’s. A caregiver cannot do their job if they do not first care for themselves. Take a breath, and allow yourself some downtime. This pandemic has been an incredibly unforgiving time for all age groups, but parents in particular may have found it to be the ultimate test. Just know that you’re doing great, and you will get through this in one piece. Reach out to your paediatrician for any serious concerns about your family’s well-being.
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2020)
What is Zoom Fatigue?
The COVID-19 pandemic has had effects reaching far beyond public health and the economy. Now that most events, tasks, and even studies have shifted to the world wide web, Stanford researchers have now warned about a new impending problem: Zoom Fatigue.
“Zooming” has become a common term to replace video calling, in the same way “Googling” has become synonymous with web searches. Professor Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL) and his team studied the psychological impact of extended screen time prompted by the recent boom in videoconferencing and online classes. His study aimed to understand the extent of psychological damage zooming had on various age groups, particularly young, working people. It is in his research that the term “Zoom Fatigue” arose.
Zoom Fatigue is a feeling of tiredness, worry, or burnout associated with the overuse of virtual platforms of communication, particularly videoconferencing. The pandemic has caused most employees to start working from home indefinitely, implying an inherent dependence on platforms like Zoom or Google Meet for important meetings and discussions that would otherwise happen in the conference room.
Below are 4 ways in which video chatting fatigues human beings:
- Excessive eye contact from a close range: It’s bad enough you have to stare at a screen for hours on end, but researchers posit that both the eye contact and the size of the faces on screen are unnatural. On video calls, multiple participants are staring at you continuously, dramatically increasing the amount of sustained eye contact. From a psychological perspective, this can be quite draining. Additionally, when a person’s face is so close to ours in real life, our brains interpret this as leading to either mating or conflict; both being equally intense activities. Until such platforms change their interface, researchers recommend making your Zoom screen small relative to the size of your monitor, in order to minimize face size.
- Being able to see yourself constantly in real-time: Most video conferencing platforms have a small window wherein you can see yourself. The longer the meet goes on, the more time you will have to spend looking at yourself. “In the real world, if somebody was following you around with a mirror constantly – so that while you were talking to people, making decisions, giving feedback, getting feedback – you were seeing yourself in a mirror, that would just be crazy. No one would ever consider that,” Bailenson noted. The team suggests hiding self-view to prevent this constant fatigue.
- Lowered mobility and increased stagnation: Video-chatting keeps us bound to a very small sphere of view, which does not allow for much movement. New research studies suggest that increased mobility in human beings enables better cognitive performance. To give yourself a brief, nonverbal rest, you can try turning off your video for sometime. Consider purchasing an external keyboard or camera so you can move around a bit.
- Video calls carry a much higher cognitive load: In-person conversations are one of the most common activities we as human beings participate in. But taking that action and flipping it on its head can be quite stressful, particularly if a lot of thought has to go into it. “You’ve got to make sure that your head is framed within the center of the video. If you want to show someone that you are agreeing with them, you have to do an exaggerated nod or put your thumbs up. That adds cognitive load as you’re using mental calories in order to communicate.” says Bailenson. Make sure to take an “audio-only break”, and turn your body away from the screen for sometime, just to recharge your mental batteries.
Though the goal is not to vilify Zoom, scientists and researchers have suggested several measures that can be used to mitigate the harmful effects it can cause. The lead researcher on this study probably sums it up best: “Videoconferencing is a good thing for remote communication, but just think about the medium – just because you can use video doesn’t mean you have to”.
How to Keep Your Kids Safe in School ?
As the high tide of COVID-19 infections has seemingly ebbed, many schools and universities across the US have decided to reopen their doors with necessary precautions. Sending your kids back to school may sound daunting, but many experts have warned that continuing online education indefinitely may prove more harmful for children than good. So don’t fret, here’s some simple tips to keep your kids safe at school:
- Practice Physical Distancing: Based on the latest CDC guidelines, younger school children are recommended to stay 3 feet apart, while high schoolers and college students are recommended to keep the standard 6 feet distance. This is due to the higher detected rates of COVID-19 among older students. Communal gatherings like staff lounges should be avoided, and teachers should maintain physical distance from their pupils.
- Face Masks: Masks have played an integral role in keeping people safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. So undeniably, it would be prudent to urge our young ones to continue the same during school hours. Masks are designed to keep those surrounding the wearer safe from infection. Hence, it is advised that all children above the age of 2 years should wear well-fitted masks over the nose and mouth while on school premises. Parents and teachers should also set an example to their kids by wearing masks as well.
- Personal Hygiene: Hand-washing, sanitizing, and other basic practices of personal hygiene are crucial to halting the spread of the coronavirus. Teachers should ensure that kids are made to regularly wash their hands and avoid unnecessary touching surfaces. Rooms should be routinely disinfected with proper equipment
- Testing and Temperature Checks: Whether or not your child’s school regularly checks temperature or blood oxygen concentration levels, you as a parent can test your kid before and after school hours to be extra sure. Though the CDC’s guidelines do recommend teachers and staff be scanned once a week, it is not compulsory for students to be tested. Hence, it is recommended that parents test their kids on a regular basis.
- Immunization: Parents need to keep their children up to date on their vaccines. It is especially important that students receive all their shots on time, as it reduces the risk of serious infections. In particular, getting your kids inoculated against the flu would greatly mitigate the risk of illness.
- Emotional Support: COVID-19 has impacted our society not just physically but in terms of mental health as well. It’s safe to say that being a child of the pandemic can’t be very easy. Students are losing out on a vital part of their childhood. Physical interaction, classroom learning, and communal events have all been limited during this time, leaving both kids and parents incredibly vulnerable to mental health issues like anxiety and depression. In addition to this, many kids may have experienced the sudden loss of a family member, friend, neighbor, or teacher, which can cause severe distress. Tending to the emotional needs of a child is just as important as keeping them physically safe from the virus. Hence, both parents and teachers need to be mindful of a child’s mental health when schools reopen.
School during the pandemic may not feel even close to normal for a long long time. But be it online or in-person, it takes a village to raise a child. Students, parents, staff, and teachers all need to do their part to make sure schools are safe and engaging again.
Month by Month: Each Trimester of Pregnancy Explained
Pregnancy can be a daunting time, especially if you’re a first-time mother or aiding a first-time mother. Being informed and prepared of what lies ahead is the best way to stay one step ahead, keep your mind at ease, and help you relish the joys of motherhood. You’ll be ready for anything and everything. Here’s a breakdown of each week; what the baby looks like, how it behaves, and what to expect in the weeks to come…
First Trimester: Weeks 1-12
The best way to tell if you are pregnant is by a missed period. A home HCG pregnancy test can be taken at least 1 week after the last period. Blood tests can be done for a quicker result. The first trimester is marked by some discomfort and mood changes. Some mothers may experience nausea, fatigue, tender breasts, and frequent urination. Eating smaller meals at frequent intervals to combat cravings.
At month 1, the fetus will:
- Be the size of a grain of rice, only 1/4th of an inch
- Form a primitive face with dark spots for eyes
- Have a mouth, throat, and lower jaw
- Create blood cells and start circulation
At month 2, the fetus will:
- Be about an inch in length, and can be officially termed a “fetus”
- Form tiny buds which eventually become the limbs
- Develop a central nervous system, digestive tract, and sensory organs
- Replace cartilage with bone
At month 3, the fetus will:
- Form arms, legs, fingers, and toes
- Be able to open and close its fist
- Start to form teeth
- Have a circulatory and urinary system
Second Trimester: Weeks 13-26
The second trimester is often called the “golden period”, as it is marked by much less discomfort than the first trimester. A lot of unpleasant side effects seem to go away, and a mother will be able to feel the fluttering movements of her baby. However, other side effects like back pain, abdominal pain, constipation, leg cramps, and heartburn may set in. Yoga, meditation, exercise, and healthy eating can help combat painful and uncomfortable symptoms.
At month 4, the fetus will:
- Rapidly grow, and reach about 4 ½ inches in size
- Develop bone structure
- Be able to move his or her eyes, and start coordinating body movements
- Develop thicker skin
- Form external genitalia, meaning you’ll be able to tell the sex of the baby
At month 5, the fetus will:
- Reach about 6 ⅓ inches in length
- Have fully developed ears and may hear sounds
- Become pretty active, rolling and flipping in the amniotic sac, at which point mothers will be able to feel the little flutters
- Form a thick, greasy coating called the vernix caseosa, which protects the baby from cuts, abrasions, and hardening from the surrounding amniotic fluid
At month 6, the fetus will:
- Be nearly 9 inches in length, and weigh 2 pounds
- Be able to suck his or her thumb
- Have visible hair and eyebrows
- Form fingerprints and footprints
- Develop lungs
- Be able to respond to your voice
Third and Final Trimester: Weeks 28-40
The final trimester can be a physically and emotionally taxing time for the mother. Due to the increased size and 2.5 pounds of uterus weight she has to carry around, there may be a lot of complications at this stage like varicose veins, hemorrhoids, urinary incontinence, and breathing and sleep issues. She may experience Braxton-Hicks contractions, which are random, usually painless spasms of the uterus, and will feel a lot of movement from her baby. This trimester also brings a lot of anxiety to new mothers, but staying positive and prepared will help keep your mind at ease.
At month 7, the fetus will:
- Be about 13 inches long
- Have fully developed hearing
- Respond to stimuli like sound, pain, and light
- Change positions quite frequently
At month 8, the fetus will:
- Be 18 inches long and weigh about 5 pounds
- Develop body fat reserves
- Have matured internal development systems
At month 9, the fetus will:
- Be about 18-20 inches long and weigh anywhere from 7 to 9 pounds
- Have early fully developed lungs
- Have coordinated reflexes
- Change position for delivery
Pregnancy and birth are truly miracles of nature, and going through the experience can change a family for the better. Be sure to provide as much support to the mother as possible, and reach out to an OBGYN for any information.