Parenting in the time of Coronavirus: Children have questions but how do you explain the pandemic


How do you explain to a child the science of something that is neither living nor dead? How do you tell her that something invisible can kill people? What answer does a father have when his son asks whether he will be able to celebrate his birthday in June. Then there is the kid who competes with his parents for TV time cartoons or grim news programs? And perhaps not surprisingly many want to beat up China.

Parents across the country, and the world, are grappling with an unprecedented challenge of dealing with their children who are too old to be shushed or placated and too young to understand the inexplicable situation the world has found itself in.

Here are some of the experiences from around the country:

Niheer Waghmare, all of 2 years 4 months, is a diehard fan of his father Aditya’s Royal Enfield motorcycle. A short ride around Aurangabad is mandatory every day. When the lockdown started, this practice stopped. Now the bike engine is started every morning for him to sit on its petrol tank and drink his milk.

His mother told him: There is a threat called corona on roads outside. It will attack and injure us . He understood it’s something dangerous.

He said, ‘once corona ends, I will go to the hills’. For now, I show the hills to him from the roof of my house, said Waghmare.

Three-year-old Ira was never too keen to go to playschool. But since the lockdown, she’s been insisting on being with her playgroup. So her mother, Arundhati Pattabhiraman, dresses up Ira every morning and lines up her toys to create an environment similar to her playschool.

To make her understand about coronavirus, we made it into a story that it is a monster which will catch her if she steps out of the house or if she doesn’t wash her hands. So now every time she speaks to her grandparents, she ends the conversation with ‘wash your hands or coronavirus will get you’.

I both love and hate coronavirus. It is making my mummy and daddy stay home, and I love that. But I hate that this time no one can come home for my birthday. I won’t even get gifts,” said Shahana Datta who will turn eight on 7 April.

“I told her that coronavirus is a disease that could make people die while coughing. The idea was to keep her off ice creams and cold drinks,” said her mother Ananya Sengupta. “I realised my mistake when she started pointing out to people who were coughing or even yawning loudly and asking me in hushed tones if that person was going to die soon.”

“Then she asked me if it was okay to kiss mamma goodnight. I told her it was okay as long as we didn’t have a cold.

Shahana has been deeply affected by the visuals of the mass exodus of migrants.

“I think this is a bad disease if people have to leave their homes like this. Can we not keep them with us?, ” she said. Ananya had no answer so she made Shahana write a 10-line essay on coronavirus.

Shahana wrote it obediently. Her last line was: “They all deaded.”


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