Home confinement due to the current pandemic of coronavirus is an anomalous circumstance that is changing people’s daily routine and can generate certain discomfort among the population.
In the case of children, the negative effects of confinement may be greater due to a series of elements:
- Children are in the process of development so they depend to a large extent on the environment to regulate of their emotions and behaviour. When this environment changes, as it is the case of confinement, difficulties in emotional and behavioural regulation are more likely to be detected.
- A need for habits and routines: routines and habits help children to regulate internally so they are especially sensitive when these are modified. Therefore, confinement, which involves a significant change in routines and habits, has a greater impact on children.
- The need for outdoor gross motor activity: movement is essential for the development of children and helps them regulate their emotions. The confinement situation, especially in urban settings, will significantly limit the possibility of children moving around in open spaces.
- The need to interact with peers: the relationship with other children is a central element in the daily lives of the little ones and this aspect may be clearly limited during confinement.
- The need for situations of stability and certainty. It is important to control instability and uncertainty for the healthy development of children, since these situations generate uneasiness and mistrust. Confinement has components of uncertainty that may cause discomfort in children.
Which difficulties may confinement entail?
During lockdown several complaints may arise: boredom, increased difficulties in regulating emotions, episodes of anger (increased irritability), emotional lability (prone to crying), hyperdrive behaviour, difficulties in following instructions, oppositional behaviour, increased fear and difficulties in eating and sleeping.
How does confinement affect children from 0 to 3 years of age?
At this age children are especially sensitive to changes in the schedules of their basic needs associated with their biological rhythms (especially sleep and food). Therefore, during confinement it is important that you keep your schedules as tight as possible.
In this group of age sensory games can be an important resource during the confinement period. At this age, children are discovering their own body so they especially enjoy sensory activities. Through this kind of activities interaction and communication is encouraged, while they also help them to regulate emotions during moments of tension.
Sensory activities can be conducted with materials that we may have at home such as: sensory books, mouldable sand, sensory bag fillers, shaving cream, finger paint, bubbles or pouring and transferring activities for food and/or liquids. We can also use music as a sensory resource, as children on this age group especially enjoy it. Music can be used as a resource at very different times, both for active and interactive activities and for relaxation.
Avoid the use of screens in children this age, since screens can have non-positive impacts on the child's development if used regularly. This recommendation will be a challenge during these days of confinement, as time seems to move slowly these days for the little ones and your younger children may have older siblings who might want to watch television or use the tablet, the computer or video games.
How can we prevent and address difficulties these days?
1. Profit from the positive aspects of confinement. You can use these to balance the negative effects and prevent possible disturbances. Some of these positive changes are:
- Decreased daily rhythm.
- Increased leisure time.
- Increased time to spend with parents and siblings.
We can all benefit from these increased time together and we can improve the quantity and quality of communication that we establish with our children.
2. Preserve basic habits and try to ensure a high-quality sleep and a balanced diet.
3. Establish a schedule and daily routines to help children maintain a day-to-day rhythm similar to the one they had before confinement. Include various activities in the schedule, combining leisure activities with autonomy habits and family collaboration activities adjusted to the age of the child:
- It can be useful to make a visual schedule so that the children can see the activities that you and them will do throughout the day. This can motivate them, involve them and they will be able to consult the schedule easily without the need for the adult to insist at all times on what to do.
- Examples of leisure activities: recipes, crafts, puzzles, constructions, reading stories, listening to music and dancing, board games, symbolic and imaginary play.
- Examples of autonomy activities: personal hygiene, dressing, cleaning up the room.
- Examples of family collaboration activities: setting and removing the table, helping with the cooking, doing the laundry, etc.
4. Avoid the excessive use of screens (television, tablets, cell phones...) and adjust it to the child's age.
5. Enhance activities that involve movement (regulated by the adult and adjusted to the possibilities of each home).
6. Try to keep in touch with other family members and friends. You can do so through calls or videoconferences and it will help you and the kids to mitigate the situation of social isolation.
7. Confinement has a clear effect on the emotions of parents or adults who are in charge of the children. In this context, it is important to take care of our reactions in front of children in times of tension or discouragement, avoiding episodes of negative communication.