DAY 5: Normalising life for a child during the COVID-19 lockdown

Sardinia – an Italian island on lockdown

#AndraTuttoBene ‘ Everything will be alright

Today (Saturday) marks the fifth day of Italy’s national lockdown. As of today, there are 45 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 Coronavirus here on the island of Sardinia.

We are advised not to leave our homes unless absolutely necessary. The only exceptions are for grocery shopping, health reasons, or to work in essential industries including banks, pharmacies and supermarkets.

My wife and I, who prior to the lockdown led relatively hectic lives, have found it a bit of a shock to find ourselves suddenly faced with nothing to do. In yesterday’s post, I outlined what we are doing to keep ourselves busy, and how we are structuring our lives as best as possible.

Today, in order to give some insight as to what it’s like at home with small children during the national lockdown in Italy, I decided to contact a good friend, Valentina, to ask how she is coping staying at home with her husband Daniele, and their five-year-old daughter Gaia.

Valentina, a self-employed Speech Language Pathologist based in the town of Alghero in Sardinia’s north west, has had to find a way to juggle both working from home, and keeping a five-year old occupied, ever since schools were closed across Italy on March 5th.

So how do you explain the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic to a five-year-old?

Valentina and Daniele explained the best way they could, “Gaia understands the situation. We explained that it’s like a type of very strong cold … but instead of spreading slowly to one person, it spreads to many others very quickly.”

“Gaia knows that we should stay at home to ‘avoid hurting each other’ – she has been told that if you get the virus you have to stay at home to recover, then eventually we can all go out again” Valentina said.

Attempting to simplify the explanation, “She knows that it’s important that we don’t all get sick at the same time, or the hospital where her aunt works won’t be able to take care of everyone.”

So how can you normalise life for a child during this period, when we are told to stay at home?

According to Valentina, “It was difficult in the beginning, but we’ve allocated a section of the house as the ‘school corner’ where Gaia is expected to do homework at certain times of the day – this area  includes notebooks, pencils, and a small blackboard, to make it feel more like a school classroom.”

In the morning Valentina tries to plan her work day before her daughter wakes up. At 8am they all make sure to have a family breakfast together. They watch 20 minutes of cartoons after breakfast, then plan the day’s activities.

Daniele and Valentina try to play interactive games as much as possible. This includes organising treasure hunts around the house, hiding toys for hide and seek, drawing maps, and painting pictures. After dinner, it’s then reading time.

A couple of nights this week, they’ve watched films together pretending the house is a cinema – popcorn included, to set the atmosphere.

Valentina’s advice to parents that find themselves in a similar situation, attempting to manage working from home, and looking after children: “play games – treasure hunts are great as it keeps them busy. Reading is also highly recommended. For older children, they can have video calls with their friends in order to socialise.”

“Tell the children stories about when they were babies. Look at photo albums together. We’ve made homemade playdough using flour, water and salt. We also make biscuits, cakes and pizza at home together.”

Drawing is also a great idea to keep children occupied. All over Italian social media, parents are now sharing photos of their children’s colourful drawings, as a symbol of hope – a way to bring people together when you need to keep your distance. These drawings are often accompanied by rainbows, and a simple sentence in Italian, “Andrà tutto bene” – Everything will be alright.

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