One of the positive outcomes of this extended homestay period for children and parents has been the unrivalled time between parents/caregivers and their children. I am sure, like me, many parents must have been challenged at first on how to have children around them all the time, keep them engaged without getting on each other’s nerves. I have tried and explored all options including gardening, molding crafts using clay and local materials, bike rides, playing soccer coupled with online learning. Within this period, I have noted emergence of very positive routine within the children in terms of learning, play and work ethics in addition to positive peer relationships emerging.
Further reading, one to one engagements and participation in webinars relating to parenting, I note that parents ought to be intentional in continuing to explore and identify new ways to engage children and to teach them new skills for their growth outside of the school setting.
However, some parents are resigned about minding the children and are letting them roam within the communities all day or got them hooked on online games and watching Television as a preoccupation and a distraction throughout the day, week in and out.
Unfortunately, this inappropriate exposure of children to various activities without due consideration to age and health as well as abilities can result in emergence of poor health conditions and behaviour. Consequently, this will impede on their development into adults capable of contributing to the good of this country. Covid19 lockdown has exposed many things within families and communities and one of the outstanding aspects has been that the gap in parenting practices evidenced by issues affecting reported by the media.
As a reflection on the International Children’s Day, 20th of November, we need to continue to focus our energies to build and invest in norms, systems, opportunities and a culture that nurtures and upholds the wellbeing of children as being central to any development efforts of the country.
While this is a shared responsibility, it starts in homes with parents and caregivers becoming more mindful about what children are taught, exposed to, people they spend time with and all the things consuming their time especially during this period. Government as well needs to focus on community systems that support the functional needs of parents in their caregiving roles.
The International Children’s Day was declared in 1989 when the UN General Assembly adopted “The Convention of the Rights of the Child”. Such a designated day reminds us of the responsibility that all of us as adults, leaders and caregivers have a key role to nurture children into becoming individuals that are healthy, educated, skilled and responsible citizens.
In the era of information overload and easy access to all sorts of information online, parents and caregivers should check for age appropriateness information that the child can access. With today’s parents juggling work, managing businesses and the homes, it leaves less room to put safeguarding measures in place. Children are curious by nature and those undergoing online tutoring may veer off to other online sites which may not be good for their social and emotional wellbeing. Children are falling prey to predators online and been exploited not forgetting the other side effects of spending too much time online. A study that was done on Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development indicated that Children who use smartphones, tablets, and video games more than seven hours a day are more likely to experience premature thinning of the cortex, the outermost layer of the brain that processes thought and action. This may affect their decision-making abilities as adults.
It is also imperative that parents/caregivers are mindful of the chores given to children, or the work children engage in while parents are absent from the home. Child labour has been on the rise since the lockdown started as driven by the need of households to increase their income.
A report released by Save the Children in May 2020 discovered that 56% of Ugandans had noticed an increase in child labour since the beginning of the lockdown. Understandably, the times are harder as result of COVID19 however, inappropriate work for children such as in selling alcohol, roadside vending of items till the late hours of the night increases chances of them being abused.
Roles such as family care and baby minding especially for girls may further reinforce the stereotypes about “gender assigned roles” leading them to losing focus on their education. Reports coming from some of ChildFund areas of operation like Kitgum district indicate that fewer girls in candidate classes have reported back to school. Girls have settled into the roles of family care, home making, and shunned education hence the increase in school dropout.
If parents and caregivers are being more mindful of children’s holistic wellbeing, engaging them about their interests and asking about their aspirations, they can be able to guide them accordingly while reinforcing the most appropriate work ethics and values.