Recommendations for parents coping with the COVID-19 pandemic
Dr. Moshe Farchi, Chair of the Stress, Trauma and Resilience Track at Tel-Hai College
Currently many parents are forced to stay at home with their children, following the Ministry of Health guidelines. Some of them are even in home quarantine. Cancellation of education frameworks and quarantine guidelines are, at this stage, the best medicine for reducing the risk of contracting or spreading the COVID-19 virus. Clearly staying home with children can be a challenging task which can, alongside the benefits of quality time with the children, create feelings of anger, confusion and of course worry and stress within children. Dr. Moshe Farchi, Chair of the Stress, Trauma and Resilience Track in the Department of Social Work at Tel-Hai College, who also serves as Deputy Chief Mental Health Officer for the Homefront Command, gives a number of simple and effective suggestions to assist parents during the long stay at home with children, based on the Six C’s model he developed.
- Create commitment: Convey the message that everyone is in this together and we help each other, and of course the sense that you are with them all the time. Divide up tasks and areas of responsibility. You the parents are in charge of making sure that each person fulfills their responsibilities (try not to do things instead of the children).
- Encourage effective action: Helplessness is the enemy! It’s important to ensure effective activity. Keep a daily routine: getting up in the morning, getting organized, breakfast, planning the day with the children including screen time, study time, board game time, mealtimes, physical activity inside the home (you can even have competitions between the children), getting ready for bed, bath time, etc.
- Mental activity: Teach children a little bit about how to check their pulse and temperature and get them to keep a chart of their readings. Encourage thinking competitions like Scattergories, games like battleship or any other board games.
- Constructing, planning and organizing activities: Create a schedule and action plan for the quarantine days. Sit with the children each day and summarize the day’s activities, explain the day’s news about COVID-19 in simple terms and plan a schedule for the following day with the children. Plan the division of tasks for the following day in advance so that children will be ready for their roles in the morning.
How to cope with children’s fears? Dr. Farchi explains: “The situation is definitely liable to cause uncomfortable feelings and also different
physical reactions. It is important to remember that negative feelings such as fear, a sense of threat, etc. up to a certain level are completely normative and permissible. Therefore, make a scale of feelings and ask the child to rate the strength of the feeling that is bothering them, and ask them to explain what exactly this feeling is, what is causing it, and what the child thinks they should do to reduce the intensity of the feeling by 1-2 points.
The Six C’s model developed by Dr. Farchi was adopted by the Ministry of Health about 18 months ago as the national model for providing psychological first aid. Security and rescue forces, Magen David Adom, the police, firefighters and other first responders are now trained using this model. The model was developed during 2011 for the IDF combat forces, with the support and consultation of the managers of the Mental Health Division of the Ministry of Health. The uniqueness of the model is its simplicity and accessibility to the entire public, on the one hand, and on the other hand the speed and effectiveness with which it provides assistance. The model is based on cognitive rather than emotional communication with a traumatized person.
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