Between the social unrest, Covid and ordinary parenting, it’s safe to say that our plates are full at the moment. And while it’s easy to get knocked down from Lockdown, it’s so important to step back and understand that there is actually a lot to be learned from these trying times. So here are 5 important life lessons that parallel today’s unique challenges with the stuff we’re already tackling in day-to-day parenting.
1. Anger is necessary
As we all watched the news and witnessed the disturbing scenes of looted shops in the second week of June 2021, the anger grew in both the Watchers and the Doers. But here’s the thing, while we all agree that looting should not happen, somewhere we all also understand that there is meaning behind what happened in South Africa that fateful week. In fact I think that beneath it all, people are feeling really, really angry and it needed to come out. Now while I agree that there should be ‘behaviour police’ out there to manage how people express themselves, I completely disagree with ‘feelings police’. In other words, it’s never okay to act out your anger by stealing and breaking things, but the big angry feelings driving that behaviour is vitally important and we all need to tune into that. This isn’t news though because the same goes for when our kids are tantruming: The ‘behaviour police’ say you are not allowed to bite your brother (for example), but if you child is feeling that angry about something, as a parent it’s important to understand what’s going on behind that behaviour. So let’s find more productive ways to process these big threatening feelings…like being brave enough to listen and talk to each other.
2. It’s better when things are out in the open
In the recent decade this country had many sinister things going on under the surface. You couldn’t put your finger on it because the corruption was quiet and under the radar. The difference is that now, things are finally surfacing. And as intense as this social unrest is, at least it’s out in the open and can finally be named and processed. We see this with troubled kids all the time, if one kid starts bullying another kid on the playground, it alerts the adults that something is not right. Hopefully the bully isn’t just disciplined, but is also taken to a therapist to understand what is driving that destructive behaviour. So while bullying may not be acceptable behaviour, it is also an important communication that something inside that child feels unbearable. And it’s vital to equip that child with tools to better manage their stress, and offer adult support. Applying this idea to South Africa, now that the anger is out in the open, our country is in a position to talk about it. With this in mind I am hopeful that the clean up in our country will not stop at the malls, and will continue in the form of making sense of looted feelings and ransacked hearts.
3. We have to rely on the grown ups
Over Covid and the recent unrest, we had to wait for the adults in charge – namely the systems, governments and medical world -to get up to speed and make plans. Over the past 18 months there have certainly been a lot of big feelings about feeling let down by these parents. But as parents ourselves, we are also familiar with that experience of not always understanding how to soothe our crying kids. We often need time to work through our own thoughts and defences, do research, chat to other moms and then after all of that… we can only ever really do what we can. Which sadly isn’t always enough. So while we may not necessarily agree with what the grown ups are doing to manage politics and health crises, surely as parents ourselves, we know how hard it is to do this job.
4. We can’t always get what we want
How many times do we have to tell our kids that iPad time is over and see their disappointment when fun is ended prematurely? Sometimes not getting what we want can actually feel like deep neglect, even when it’s not. Same goes for the rolling lockdowns that month after month remind us the fun needs to stop, we can’t play outside with our mom friends, and we have to try even harder to give our kids an ordinary existence. Not getting what we want when we want it, is one of life’s hardest lessons that we were grappling with way before lockdown, in simple forms like having to budget and cut back on how many shoes we buy.
5. People have different opinions
Some people support vaccines and others don’t. And while certain voices are louder than others, actually ALL opinions matter. But wait, haven’t we seen this kind of rivalry before, in our own homes between the siblings that live under our own roofs? When they disagree which show to watch on Netflix, what do we tell them? We remind them that everyone’s opinion is important. That kind of validation is also important now on a wider scale.
The bottom line
As hard as the SA politics are to metabolize, and as frustrating as Covid is, there are actually a lot of important lessons in all of this. Luckily as parents already raising little people, none of these lessons are new to us. In fact if we take a step back, we will see that we’ve been grappling with these big feelings and moral dilemmas for years! And actually in the midst of great difficulty we can raise awareness and gain new insights into ourselves and the people we live with.