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Raising Naneni - Telling your children about coronavirus

2020-03-20  Staff Reporter

Raising Naneni - Telling your children about coronavirus

The Covid-19 has pounced on the world like a thief in the night. Even though China has been dealing with the virus since the 31 December 2019, we could only sympathise. But before long, the virus spread to other countries and subsequently Namibia reported its first two cases over the weekend.

And I will tell you this: I am freaking the hell out! I am to some degree a hypochondriac. Growing up, every little symptom I may have had, my mind suggested that I had some serious undiagnosed condition. And now that I am a parent, the fear has amplified.

Just when I thought I was paranoid, my Nigerian friend Uche called me on Wednesday to tell me that I was indeed right when I advised him not to buy his plane ticket to Algeria just yet as by the time of travel, positive cases would increase in Algeria and they would have to close their borders. Algeria closed its borders and he had to ask for a refund on his plane ticket. 

Not that I am an expert in epidemiology, but I continued by saying that I believe our country should be on lockdown for at least two weeks after the first case was recorded, because my concern is the fact that our healthcare system is completely inadequate, and our best survival option is to have as few cases as possible.  Even though learners were sent home for social distancing purposes, the well-attended daily street soccer in our neighborhood continues and the boys are making the most out of the ‘holiday’ by sharing sweat and germs openly. We agreed that, it appears despite the overwhelming information on the virus, not everyone will be cautious and judging from Germany, Italy, France and Spain, the governments of these countries eventually decided on a national quarantine. Unfortunately, for Italy, one would say, a little too late. We are constantly advised to practice prevention rather than cure and national quarantine - before the worst-case scenario occurs - seems to be the best option according to Dr Ashish Jha, Director of Harvard Global Health Institute. The doctor says, “if we under-react, we are going to count our losses in lives.”

After my phone conversation ended, Naneni asked me what lockdown means and why she cannot go to school. The challenge is, how do you as parent decide what is the most appropriate age to discuss tragic news with your children? And how do you maintain your strength as a parent without lying about the severity of the tragedy. Most governments initially ensure their citizens that they have nothing to worry about, but eventually end up with eggs on their faces when the truth is eventually reveals that they have nothing under control. Which results in a loss of trust from their citizens. Should you as a parent assure your children that everything is fine, when it is not? 

Perhaps its best to tell them the absolute truth about the crisis while encouraging caution and optimism.  Eventually, I had a conversation with my four-year-old.  Not that she grasped everything, but I believe that even children as young as four years old will hear about major crisis events, either from their older siblings or simply from when you spoke about it over the phone with a friend. 

A week ago, my friend Uaripi and I had a similar conversation, we concluded that when we were children we stumbled across information such as the fact that certain relatives had ‘deadly’ diseases from overhearing adults speak. And because no one really explained it to us, we made our own conclusions and became paranoid. It is from this experience as children that we believe it is best when the first source of information for a child is a parent.

In the absence of school, I have now replaced my daughter’s kindergarten friends. We played hide and seek, and I was surprised at how fast my daughter can run when we played ‘on-your-marks’. The news of the virus certainly paralyzed me. However, we should try to lead normal lives when at home. 

*My name is Paulina N. Moses (PRP), mother to my four-year-old daughter, Naneni. This column hopes to create momentum for positive parenting by candidly discussing everything about parenting, while creating a network of millennial parents who support and cheer one another on.*

2020-03-20  Staff Reporter

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