Lockdown Day 45 – Parent Post
Day 45 of the lockdown and it seems that the tunnel is never-ending. Families are facing some of the hardest times known in this generation due to the health, safety, and economic stresses happening in the wake of this global pandemic.
As much as we try and shield our children from the gravity of the situation, we need to be cognisant that we cannot protect them from this reality. What we can, however, attempt to do, is to prepare them and include them in the reality in an age-appropriate manner.
Including the children in the reality of what is happening, (be it in the world, the country, the community, or in their own home), allows children to feel more secure, strengthens family bonds, and teaches children about the world, its events and where (and how) they can make a contribution. Including children in these discussions also teaches them how to ask questions, how to look for answers, how to deal with their emotions, and how to ‘make a plan’ – all critical thinking skills.
The manner in which these conversations are addressed, however, needs to take into account the individual child’s development stage and temperament. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ possible here. You will need to gauge how you deal with each of your children individually based on what you know about them.
THE PRESCHOOL CHILD
Children of this age are still very much focused on themselves and their immediate family. They are very sensitive to their parents’ emotional states and can often feel that they are responsible for the cause of the upset.
The pre-schooler needs to be reassured that someone (in the family) is in charge and that everything will be OK. As far as possible, keep the normal routines going. There should be a waking-up time, a set time for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If you are doing a home-school programme of some sort, try and do this at the same time every day. This will allow the child to predict what will happen next, and feel secure.
If your child is worried, ask her/him to verbalise what is causing her/him distress. Help the child to understand the emotions by naming them, and talking through them. You can explain that you are worried about what is happening and that this sometimes makes you feel sad, frustrated, angry etc. Counter this with what you can, however, change and control – you are happy that you all have this time to be together; you are grateful that you have food, etc.
THE PRIMARY SCHOOL CHILD
These children are more exposed to the news as they have a higher skill set of literacy. Given the sensationalist headlines written by media channels, this can be a very scary time for these children who do not yet have the mental capacity to see these headlines in their appropriate context.
Create safe spaces for discussions and be prepared to provide an age-appropriate level of context and perspective. Find out what the child knows and understands and work from there. Encourage critical thinking and help the children to look for positives and solutions. This child needs to feel useful. Whilst s/he may feel powerless in the ‘big picture’, it is important that s/he understands that what s/he is doing (helping with the household chores, wearing a mask) is making a difference and is essential for the well-being of the family and the community as a whole.
Teenagers are in a particularly difficult place. They are engaged with so much news; fake news, conspiracy theories, and opinions on the various forms of social media that they are now exposed to.
Teenagers may also be in the stage of accepting outside opinions more than those of their parents (who clearly do not ‘understand’ anything). It is important to keep the communication channels open. Invite conversations even if you know that you are not going to agree with their opinions! Show an interest in what they have to say. Ask them open-ended questions and prompt them to support their ideas and opinions with an explanation of why they think it to be so. Be open to admitting that you do not have the answers to everything. Engage these children in conversations about what they would do if they had the deciding voice. What solutions could they come up with to assist in this time? This can be about the country as a whole, or issues that are occurring within the household.
Wishing all mothers a happy Mother’s Day today!