Self-isolation creates new challenges for parents at home

Mehtab Chahal, 3, learns how to make rotis in her house in Calgary on April 6. Her mother is teaching her to prepare food. (Photo by Dharampreet Dhillon/The Press)

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, self-isolation has forced many parents and guardians in Canada to stay home with their children, creating new parenting challenges.

One of these challenges is navigating how to explain the pandemic to children.

Aman Chahal, a counsellor from the Punjabi Community Health Services, has some ideas.

“We must make sure that we are giving them the right information, so that their anxiety is not out of control,” said Chahal.

She suggests that parents should ask their children what they already know about the virus.

Then, parents can figure out if what their children thinks is true or not. If the information they have is not true, parents can provide their children with the correct information.

Chahal suggests parents should get their information from reliable sources such as the Alberta Health Services’ website and the World Health Organization.

According to Chahal, it’s important to remember that children take their cues from their parents, and other people who are around them. So, if parents are feeling anxious or stressed, children will pick up on it, and be more difficult to calm down.

Chahal also says that children having increased screen time is not necessarily a bad thing, but should be monitored carefully.

“I personally think that it’s not such a big deal right now, but it’s also important that we do keep it in check,” said Chahal.

Another challenge parents are facing in self-isolation is making sure their children are still getting proper nutrition.

Registered provisional psychologist, Simran Johal, says it’s important to keep a routine.

“A routine is important to make sure that they’re still getting three meals a day, [and] two snacks,” said Johal.

Johal says parents should encourage their children to watch them cook, because it helps children to get excited about eating.

Making sure children are getting essential vitamins and nutrients is important too, says Johal. For example, if parents want their children to eat a lot of vegetables like spinach, they can hide it in a meal their children might already like, such as pancakes.

After eating, Johal says, parents can talk to their children about the meal. If their children are old enough, parents can also help them understand why essential vitamins and nutrients are necessary for their bodies.

To limit unhealthy snacking, Johal suggests parents to keep a limited quantity of snacks or junk food at home. Parents should be strict about portioning out snacks and only allow their children to eat a specific amount each day.

Parents can also encourage healthy snacking habits by pairing sweets like chocolate with healthier alternatives such as apple slices, says Johal.

A routine is important to make sure that they’re still getting three meals a day, [and] two snacks. – Simran Johal

Johal says it’s important for parents to stay connected and talk with their children, because they never know what’s going on in their child’s mind.

Chahal believes that self-isolation is a good opportunity for families to spend time together.

“I think this is a really good opportunity for parents and kids to connect together, because parents are usually very busy working,” said Chahal. “They really love the extra attention and time that they get to spend with their family and loved ones.”