Not telling my child my fears of COVID has messed them up emotionally

“Kriti wasn’t ready to listen to me and I stopped short of slapping her in my frustration and rage!

Even though Kriti is just 10 years old, my daughter has been the heart of everyone in our society. She has always had people playing with her, right from our neighbour aunties, the teenagers, adults and seniors too.

For more than two months, we have managed to keep her at home, away from everyone around to protect her from the dreaded infection, but this has impacted her mental health negatively. Now she doesn’t want to eat, cries sometimes for no good enough reason, has become obstinate and either wants to watch TV like a zombie the entire day or throw a tantrum. That day she got into her head that she wants to go to her playschool, and ran outside the door whenever she got the chance - this was nothing like my Kriti. 

I was just getting more and more e upset with her every time something happened. I wanted to get hold of her, scold her, get angry at her, force her to eat--anything that could give me 5 minutes of calmness. For a moment I didn’t even want to be a good mother. But then she asked me, “Mummy, why do I HAVE to sit at home? Why can’t I meet anyone or just go outside and play? I really feel alone at home.” 

And this struck me really hard. Ever since the onset of COVID, I never bothered to even tell Kriti what it actually was. Or what is it that we were scared of.  I just marked out a schedule for her so that I can manage my work accordingly. Maybe she was also looking out for answers for this massive change  in her life and on failing to get any was unable to express her feelings except through extreme emotions.

That is when I realised that COVID was tough for even children to grasp. We ourselves are so clueless about what might happen or is happening, why are little kids expected to understand any of it? Kriti’s normal life has been taken away from her—all her comforting things are no longer available to her—her friends, her grandparents, going out for small treats for a job well done, running with  no care in the  park, gossiping with society friends—life is not easy for this little soul either. 

On top of this, I wanted her to do what I’d scheduled for. Without making  her understand the basic ‘why’ she has to do all of this, I kept on piling up different tasks for her hoping it might be useful for her and keep her busy. I planned her timetable for studies, different online lessons, added in the rule of having healthy homemade food every single day ...and all this drastic change in her life through one way rule. Just the way I was struggling to get through this phase, it was difficult for Kriti to go through the phase too.

 I got in touch with my therapist friend. She too said times are tough  and unusual. And especially for our children because they weren’t able to comprehend the ‘whys’ of the pandemic. The most important thing that she said I could do was, instead of expecting Kriti to understand me, I needed to be gentle with her. I should be the understanding one because even though ‘not meeting her friends’ did not seem a big thing for me, for Kriti it was a huge change of lifestyle on the whole. It was the time for me to share a friend-parent bond with her rather than a parent-parent relationship. I had to make her understand the reality and everything that was at stake. Her little lost heart needed a friend at this time—someone who would dance crazy with her, talk her small secrets with her, watch her favourite show with her and laugh along—and not a disciplinarian who wanted her to study, be good, and eat her meals.

Maybe our kids want to be talk.