The Coronavirus Silver Lining for China’s Left Behind Children

For many children in China’s rural provinces, Lunar New Year celebrations are the only time they get to see parents.

With villages often decimated by adults leaving to work in cities, children are usually left with grandparents whose age and ill health can mean they struggle to cope with raising young children.

For millions of children in urban and rural China, this Lunar New Year brought news of the coronavirus (COVID-19). While children were least affected, it dominated conversations and news updates. It was hard for children not to be scared.

But there has also been a silver lining. Mom and Dad were home. There for hugs and games and stories – for week after week after week

Now, China’s factories are slowly going back to work but most had been closed for extended periods as part of a nationwide effort to stem COVID-19 outbreaks.

For 4-year-old Huihui, this unusual time has brought mixed emotions. She is afraid of the coronavirus but happy her parents are home.

However, that has brought its own challenges. How do inexperienced parents re-engage with their children and keep them entertained for so long without mixing with friends?

Thankfully, advice has been available from OneSky Family Mentors. They have provided ideas and links to parent-child online games. A picture book called Coronavirus Boasting, drawn by a local girl and shared via phones, has also helped mom/daughter discussions.

“The book helped me explain that although the coronavirus is very fierce, it is not so terrible,” said Mom Wang Yan. “As long as we stay at home, do not go out, pay attention to hygiene and protect ourselves, the virus cannot do us any harm.

“I’ve told Huihui that we can also do exercises to strengthen our immunity so that we are not afraid of the coronavirus.”

In the weeks since New Year, playing indoors has become normal to Huihui.

Alongside learning about the importance of handwashing and wearing her mask, she’s also learned origami, helps with housework and prepares the vegetables for immune-boosting meals.

Dad Li Qiang has also been in charge of games. For him this time with his daughter has been bittersweet.

“Although we cannot go out to work, which has brought great financial pressure to our family, we are more aware of the importance of our role in Huihui’s childhood. We have spent so much time with her. Long enough to see her grow a little and witness her happiness. It makes it all worthwhile,” he said.