NAT ART 1-1588169356638
Parents within the Gulf News team share their StayHome experience Image Credit: Seyyed Llata, Senior Designer

Dubai: Little has been said about the effect of coronavirus movement restrictions upon children, but remember they have been couped up inside longer than the adults what with school breaking up almost a full three weeks before the work-from-home directive came. Gulf News staff with kids took the opportunity to share their observations on how this was affecting their children, and beyond compelling insights into how they were making it work (or not) they also shared their answers to taking the edge off the stress of being hemmed in and confronted with a deluge of homework.

Grin and bear it

By Ashley Hammond, UAE Editor

Enslaved to an unending stream of work in an environment where you are meant to be at your most relaxed. Yes, working from home hasn’t just entrapped the adults, but also the children too, and to say that I’ve noticed its wearing effect on the behaviour of my two daughters aged seven and five is somewhat of an understatement.

The eldest, who is usually so placid, has grown a lot more ill-tempered, sarcastic and defiant, and the youngest, who was anyway a free spirit, has just blossomed at the opportunity to unleash her wrath upon anything that stands in her way.

Both are bored, jaded and disillusioned with e-learning, and the two people they were meant to turn to for some respite in this – their parents - have had to transform into makeshift teachers overnight, who fit studies around their own career-demands.

It doesn’t work and you forever feel like you’re not doing every side justice.

Watching my youngest engage in the first zoom meeting between her classmates after nearly six weeks apart was devastatingly sad as she was just silenced into awe at the sight of their faces, and if my eldest could slouch anymore in her chair during these interactions she would be parallel.

I’m thankful for these moments though, because despite the stress, door slamming and blood curdling screams – not all of which are from me - they have made me realise what is most important.

- Ashley Hammond, UAE Editor

It could be that I haven’t been fully paying attention to their needs, and this is a golden opportunity to correct that. Also with everyone backed into a corner, the true characters of my kids are coming out. I’m amazed by their sudden wit and development, their emotions and reactions, and how they are essentially smaller versions of myself. I don’t see this when I am at work, and the pained expression on our beloved nanny’s face is now somewhat explainable. I don’t know how we are going to fix this, it’s difficult, but we are going to get through it.

At the end of the day we just stick on the music channel and dance, and that is what is seeing us through.

Method to the madness

By Nilanjana Javed, Digital Content Editor

It has been more than six weeks now since remote learning started and children are experiencing a whole new concept of being schooled from home.

The enforced time at home can be bittersweet. My son, who is in year eight and my daughter in year four, run a tight schedule. They start their school day at 9am and end at 2pm with regular breaks.

We try to maintain a routine so that it is easier for them as well.

During usual school days they wake up by 6am to attend their morning games and activities but now their habits have changed quite a bit. They wake up exactly 10 minutes before the class starts!

Some days are really lazy and they log in from their beds before slowly struggling to get on to their study table. I see they have become lazy.

They do try to keep up with their school schedule, completing one activity after another, but on some days there is too much screen time what with online tutoring, and use of tablets and phones. With social distancing becoming a norm over the weekend they connect with their friends virtually to play online games or sometimes even to chat. We do play indoor games as a family together and then there’s dinner time and story reading before going to bed.

During schools days my son who loves his sports and plays cricket and swims for his school and clubs would return home after taking his lesssons at 8pm. Exhausted, he would go to bed. With homeschooling he is trying to use the extra time for productive things like learning how to cook. We even recently bought table tennis equipment just to divert his mind.

However, I have noticed that the siblings do have their fair share of fights and get moody sometimes.

Like many parents I am worried about the “psychological and emotional health” of my children.

My son feels with increased class assignments, it’s harder to ask questions since there’s no way to virtually raise your hand. It’s harder for them to focus at home as there’s no one to discipline them.

- Nilanjana G. Javed, Digital Content Editor

For us as parents, working from home and supporting their schoolwork is not easy as we have our own deadlines.

Both of them now suddenly miss their teachers want back their school environmemt.

I guess they have had an overdose of parenting.

My daughter got very emotional when her classed wished her Happy Birthday on google hang out and she was not able to hug her girl gang.

I hope we all back to our nomal life soon.

Starting to feel the strain

By Omar Shariff, International Editor

E-learning, followed by homework, and more than a few hours on PlayStation. That, give or take, is the daily routine of my first two children. The stay-at-home policy is the only way to beat the pandemic until a vaccine is developed. But there is no denying that it is taking a toll on people’s mental and physical well-being, especially of children.

Overall, the boys, Faisal, 13, and Farhan, 10, are holding up remarkably well, considering that they have been locked inside the house longer than their parents. They have not stepped out of the building entrance for more than 45 days. However, the pent-up youthful energy, which is usually let off in the school playground or the building pool or the neighbourhood park, is sometimes being channelled into hitherto rare physical tussles amongst themselves and erratic behaviour. Their primary stress-reliever is their baby brother Fahad, 1, who is blissfully unaware of the insidious pandemic that is turning the world upside down.

Modern communications technology has made stay-at-home immeasurably more bearable. Imagine our situation if the coronavirus had hit the globe even 20 years earlier! The E-learning platform has enabled children to continue their schooling. But it is a poor substitute for the classroom.

- Omar Shariff, International Editor

Even before I log in to start work every morning, the kids are up, with their newly-acquired tablets, signed into Microsoft Teams. The elder one is quite independent, good with technology and not easily distracted. The second one seems not to take this e-learning process seriously. His demeanour is that of someone for whom the vacation is still on, albeit with the inconvenience of making an appearance in front of the teacher each day for a few hours. But he is receptive when we remind him that, for the foreseeable future, this is school.

In the debate about the dramatic changes the coronavirus outbreak has brought to the daily lives of billions around the world, the issue of children has been given lessen prominence than it deserves. Perhaps it is due to the perception that the pandemic primarily impacts adults, both in terms of infection and the economic damage it is causing.

Sleepless nights

By Sara Al Shurafa, Senior News Editor

Locked inside the house for two-and-a-half months, my child is getting more and more tense.

It has flipped her world upside down.

She is scared of something that she knows can hurt her loved ones, but her little brain does not understand what this “virus” is.

She started waking up in the night, scared, and will not go back to sleep until I lie down with her. My friend’s son went back to wetting his bed.

These children have regressed, that is how they are reacting to the uncertainties around them.

Home schooling is also adding to those uncertainties.

Today, I would have preferred to have told my daughter that summer vacation started two months early rather than take her through virtual learning.

She is uncertain and no matter what I will say, she is still confused. Is this school, are these my friends? After four weeks of remote learning she is losing interest. This week my daughter did not pay attention to a word her teacher said, I tried everything I could think of, but she would not be engaged. When I was speaking to the father of another child about the trials of homework, he said his daughter was going through a similar lack of interest.

They are four years old, how long can you expect them to remain interested while sitting in front of a screen? They are supposed to be experimenting and exploring, building their motor skills and developing their cognitive skills… in other words, being physically present and active.

- Sara Al Shurafa, Senior News Editor

It becomes worse when my daughter doesn’t understand a lesson on Zoom, she becomes angry and frustrated and it takes another day or two to get her re-acquainted with the process.

Some days she wakes up angry, screams and shouts at everything. She refuses to do things that she once did happily. Eating, showering and playing have all became triggers for her tantrums.

My latest ordeal, for past week now, is her insomnia. She is full of energy and no matter how much I push her bed time, she cries herself to sleep every night, saying, ‘but am not tired’. All night she will twist and turn; my daughter is not getting deep sleep because her body is not tired.

My friend’s son is the same and she has started to give him some homeopathy medicines. I am starting to think I will go down that path, too, especially since I am drained and I need a complete night of sleep.

The other frustrating part for me is that we missed the good weather, and now we will probably spend most our summer in the house too.

Wrestling gets us through it

By Seyyed Llata, Senior Designer

I’ve heard many people are struggling with the quarantine, yet at home, we’ve had quite a good time. I know it comes with a privileged position, our place is big and we have things that make quarantine easier.

My sons’ age gap also plays to our advantage, as the eldest is already an adult, 22 years old, and the youngest is just seven.

Our formula has been a basic of cooking and eating together, PS4, conversations and, believe it or not, a daily session of “Lucha Libre”, Mexican wrestling.

The day starts with breakfast and school for the youngest, and work for me and the eldest, we take intermittent Playstation breaks during the day, so until 2pm we are pretty busy.

Then we decide what to eat, and that is a great time, because I rarely have the chance for lunch with them, and to spoil them with some good homemade food.

At lunch, we take our time and we TALK, I have the rule of no gadgets at the table, so we can address emotions, events, stories, jokes, and tales.

- Seyyed Llata

After lunch, it is a bit more work for me and Playstation been a lifesaver, I can’t emphasise enough that getting good games is an investment for everybody’s mental health, and if you wish to have the less possible fights, get games that can be played in multiplayer mode, ask your kids, they will know what that means.

Fights can happen with the healthiest and more loving people if you lock them down together for a long period of time, but as head of the family it is your responsibility to remain calm, and talk in the same fashion.

Afternoon snacks come handy, to break tensions, and talk once more, hear their interests and concerns, your children have those at any age, listen carefully.

And finally, when the evening comes, we wear Mexican Wrestlers mask and we blow some steam at the living room, ‘boys will always be boys’ is not a misguided statement, we “fight” until all that accumulated energy goes away, is a way of very close bonding and I do recommend it as therapy for all ages and gender, of course with extreme caution.

Always see the positive side

By Alex Abraham, Senior Associate Editor

It’s been more than a month since my son and I have been sitting across the dining table for at least eight hours every day, thanks to the efforts in place to beat the coronavirus. We agreed on this position so that I could keep an eye out on the teenager who will, hopefully, write his Grade 10 board exams next year. I have always believed that parental regulation and oversight is a must for all children with electronic gadgets.

There’s plenty to study these days. And after his regular hours of interaction with the teachers and students in school via Microsoft Teams, there are tuition classes for maths and science via the Zoom app.

Unable to go out to play or meet up with friends, my son has now accepted the fact that this is reality. Gone are the days when he would ask me if he could go down to meet his friends for a few minutes or accompany me to the supermarket. His closest friend is the iPad with which he spends most of his waking day. Even over the weekends, there are no requests to go out to the mall. A couple of hours in front of the television is the only source of entertainment. I guess my son is old enough to understand the seriousness of the situation.

There are regular conversations over the dining table – of what is happening around the world, in school and how we need to take care of our health.

- Alex Abraham, Senior Associate Editor

However, despite regular encouragement to undertake some kind of exercise at home, this is not taking place. Without having to get ready to catch the school bus at 6.45am, and travel to and from school, I have noticed a sense of lethargy creeping in. I am uneasy thinking of my son’s physical fitness in September when he is expected to get back to school.

On the positive side, as a family we are able to spend much more time together, now that I, too, am working from home.

I’ll enjoy this while it lasts.