The parents section on show “Dobro jutro, Hrvatska” on Croatian Television, was dedicated to topics about the dangers of coronavirus on children and how to organize family life with young children in new circumstances and were aired on March 18, 2020. The expert interlocutors were psychologist Mia Roje Đapić on behalf of the Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center; Head of the Institute for Infectious Diseases of Children, Prof. Goran Tešović, PhD, Specialist in pediatric infectology, Intensive care subspecialist, and artist Latica Vitez who demonstrated some of the creative games for children. Here are some of the most informative parenting tips provided by guest experts:
“Children and pregnant women rarely contract the coronavirus, and if they do, then it is a clinically mild form of the disease
Prof. Goran Tešović, PhD, conveyed a reassuring message: “Children are significantly less likely to get sick than adults, and if they do, then they get mild clinical disease. In the case of the corona, in any case, children become ill less often, even if they have a mild clinical disease. Very few children therefore need some additional health care. We are happy that it is.
Other populations, which are otherwise very vulnerable, and fortunately in this epidemic rarely suffer and suffer from milder forms are pregnant women, so that in fact some fetus and newborn baby are protected, and children and adolescents are also rarely affected. When you look at the epidemiological data that is available, most of which is from China, you see that there were no fatalities in those under the age of 9 and whose infection was confirmed. And in older children and adolescents, therefore, in the age range of 10 to 19 years, the mortality rate is approximately 20 times lower than in the adult population. Luckily.”
He also commented on the fact that children can be carriers of an infection where symptoms are not seen:
“Therefore, they are not a different population from us adults, so some of us adults can be infected without symptoms. This is not strange. This is also the case with some other respiratory infections. So you can be infected without having unrecognizable, negligible or no symptoms, and the virus replicates on your mucous membranes and you can infect someone you come in contact with. What is an additional problem with this new epidemic is that the chance of you catching someone in close contact is at least twice as high as it is for seasonal influenza. So, the infection spreads relatively easily, and one infected will infect two, three people in one contact if they are in the same room. “
The route of corona transfer is generally from adults to children
“At the moment, we have only one child in Croatia who has been infected with a new virus. This child is in very good general condition and, of course, is not hospitalized, as most children will not be hospitalized. This is good because this will reduce the burden on health care facilities and the potential new entry of viruses into health care facilities, ”stressed professor Tešović:
“The transmission route is that the child will get the infection from the elderly. Therefore, if you are leaving your child with your grandparents, then make sure that you, if you have any symptoms, do not come to them and do not infect those elderly people. There is very little chance that the infection will go in a different direction, from child to adult. So you, as a parent, may be infecting your parents, who will then infect your child. This is a regular scenario. And this only infected child in Croatia was infected by her parent who developed the symptoms. So, at the moment, we have a number of common seasonal viral respiratory infections in the pediatric population that are clinically impossible to distinguish from the corona. But there are no corona infections at this time, in our pediatric population. The situation is expected to change within the next few days. “
What if the child has symptoms, coughs, sniffles, fever? No need to go to the doctor’s office. Examinations are not necessary and treatment is symptomatic. Contact your child’s pediatrician.
“Parents should monitor the situation, as you normally do when your child is infected with another virus. So there is absolutely no place for hasty and hysterical endeavors to seek medical attention immediately. Because medical help will consist of prescribing symptomatic treatment. Therefore, such a child should be lowered in body temperature, should be allowed to breathe more easily on the nose, therefore clean his nose, rinse him with saline, should naturally be fed as much as he wants and should be fed. I repeat the disease is very rare in children, but the disease is potentially dangerous and can be severe in adults. Accordingly, we will have very few children who will develop a lower respiratory infection. Experience from countries with a major epidemic has shown so far. And we should not expect that we will be the exception to this, just as we should not expect that we will be the exception as far as the epidemic goes. If you notice symptoms, you should contact the primary pediatrician by phone, but do not rush to the doctor’s office for examination and thus burden the health system. A pediatrician is a doctor who should be the primary contact in terms of scope and examination and treatment. You should first contact your primary pediatrician. It is the doctor who should be the primary contact at least as far as determining the scope and examinations and treatment. So, the tests are not necessarily need and the treatment is symptomatic. ”
How do you explain to your child the changes that are happening around them? Don’t protect them by lying about nothing happening, don’t flood them with scary information
Psychologist Mia Roje Đapić answered the question of how to explain to the children the changes that are happening around them, that they cannot go to their grandparents, that they cannot kiss their grandparents when they come to them.
“When there is such a high-stress or crisis situation for children, the two most common mistakes are when we go to extremes. One extreme is when we are going to completely protect children from everything from any disturbing information, to lie to children and to deceive “I am not at all concerned” even though the child sees on your face that this is not true at all. So, as much as we want to put our kids under a glass bell, we’re not really going to make it. Kids actually believe a lot more about what they see than what they hear, what we tell them. Up to 15% of communication is verbal. So the child sees that we are upset and we tell him “we are not, nothing terrible is happening”. We have information that some parents tell their children “nothing happens, this is just a break” or “we’re home to hang out” to protect the child, but this creates confusion for the child.
On the other hand , the child should not be overwhelmed with a numerous of information or his worries and fears, so that for 24 hours at home he will only talk about the coronavirus and create a sense of paranoia for the child, because it will harm everyone if they look at it literally. Because then the kids start worrying about their parents’ emotions, and they don’t really understand exactly what’s going on. So, keep the child informed of what is going on. There are wonderful illustrations on the internet created by psychologists and artists so that children of different ages can be visually visualized for what they are about.” advises psychologist Mia Roje Djapic
How to introduce new rules of behavior to children
“When we set the rule not to touch, say, a grandmother, we will not just tell the child ‘Do not touch your grandmother,’ because the child must understand why this is so now. For example, we can explain the coronavirus to children with a clear plastic bottle by spraying it, filling it with water mixed with glittery sequins, and thus spraying the child’s hands. And to say “It’s like it’s just a little virus on your hands. Just wipe your hands with a towel. It won’t go away. Try putting your hands under cold water. It won’t go away. But warm water and soap, it will take away the sequins. When we have just done that, we are sure to touch someone else” and this way, the child understands why this rule is important, because otherwise he or she will not be allowed to do so every time or, of course, they will forget. So, with some measure and with common sense, children should be approached, without any panic, but again that the child has some basic information at a concrete level that he can understand” emphasizes Mia Roje Đapić.
Be the dam that will filter your child’s information with the coronavirus
“If it were a different topic of conversation, I might tell you to wait for the child to show interest. However, it is impossible not to hear information about the coronavirus today. Children, especially the older one, using social networks will surely come in contact with some information, and it is much better to have parents and adult members of their family answer their questions than to pick up half-information. Of course, the media informs us and that is important. On the other hand, it seems impossible to open any channel and not come across the topic of coronavirus. Some report responsibly, some report sensationally, so there is always the primary role of parents and others caring for the child, which are dams that will help the child filter out a little bit of that information and gather those that are really useful for protecting themselves and others without creating panic and stress”, recommends the psychologist of the our Center.
How to endure confinement in apartments and homes with children?
“If we open articles on the internet, it all looks like butterflies and flowers. You never have time for your family, now you will have, in short, “if you don’t enjoy this now, you are not a good mom.” Which of course is not true. So when we’re with anyone 24/7, of course it gets on your nerves at some point. Your child will get on your nerves, you will get on your nerves. It’s also part of a normal relationship and part of a normal life, and with that, too, now that we may be spending more time together, we can engage in some things and activities that we don’t normally have time for. It is easiest to go with a line of less resistance, to make cartoons and movies, and of course we all give up a little, and we watch the series a little more than we normally watch them. But that need not be the only thing that happens. Now we can really talk to children and spend some time together and encourage empathy in children, I think that is very important. So, to develop a sense of empathy in the child so that the child needs to stay at home, possibly help to grandparents and neighbors, buy them groceries, contribute in some way to this situation” added Mia Roje Đapić.
“Of course it will be difficult, especially for parents who working from home. I’ve already heard this from some of our patients who call us and write mails. They ask how to explain to a child, especially if it is a small child, or if there are more children, that dad and mom are home now, but that they have to work. It is very important for the employer to have some understanding of this. Of course the kid will sometimes jump in a video call and ask mom to open the biscuits. The smaller the child, the greater the chance that this will happen. There are some things we can do, especially if one of the parents has flexible working hours, so he can work early in the morning and late at night so that dad and mom split up during the day. Some have this privilege and some do not. It would be good if one part of the apartment was separated, where it would be difficult to work, because it is very difficult for us to be able to work with a laptop on our lap, and that the children around us are in the living room on the sofa where they are.
And the parent knows how to evaluate when a child has a real need, and when a child is a little bored, so he wants his mom to watch a cartoon with him a little. If there is really a need and if the child is upset, we will stop doing whatever we do. But if a kid asks us to open biscuits, we’ll say “OK, I’ll be glad to do it, but within the hour as we agreed,” not that moment. Many parents will be a little heartbroken at that moment because they are rejecting the child, which is OK, and the child will also learn a little to deal with the frustration and the idea that he or she must have fun all the time. We constantly stuff our kids with content and they don’t even know what to do when they’re bored. And it is wonderful for me to see children at the our Center in the corridors who make a play out of, say, a piece of sparrow, invent something beautiful for themselves. It’s also part of normal development, creating creativity, and now let’s give them a chance to do that, too” concluded Mia Roje Đapić
Professionals of the Child Protection Centre of Zagreb participated at the 16th International congress organised by the European Society for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, held in Madrid from 22 to 24 June.
The seventeenth annual assembly of Croatian Psychological Chamber was organised within the Annual Conference of Croatian Psychologists. Principal of the Child Protection Center, Assoc. Prof. Gordana Buljan Flander, Ph. D., was awarded Annual Psychological Chamber's 'Snježana Biga-Friganović' prize. The prize was delivered by Hrvoje Gligora, President of Croatian Psychological Chamber.