Scary title right? Because a year ago we all thought this Covid-thing was temporary but in fact, it’s now likely that even with vaccines lined up, we have a long stretch of pandemic-imposed consequences ahead in one form or another. For little kids, an extended period of stress means something, especially in the younger years where growth is measured in days and months. So how do we shift our mindsets and work openly to raise healthy and happy kids during the Pandemic? Well, I have some ideas about that.
What parents are worrying about now
Less playdates, fewer family getaways and distanced social interactions have parents really concerned. We all worry about what will happen if our kids can’t play with each other. According to Neuropsychoanalyst Mark Solms, play is not just important for fun, but it’s also a place where kids work out crucial social skills. So what happens if play is more sparse and normal rules don’t apply?
So many families have been devastated financially from the Pandemic, and single-parent households have struggled in ways that other families haven’t. Not to forget the ordinary threat of a potentially deadly virus out there: All of this is understandably stressing parents and caregivers out. Make no mistake our kids are there watching us and taking in all our stress and anxiety, whether we discuss it openly or not.
Some kids are still distance-learning while many South African children have returned to school. But we worry about whether last year’s Lockdown impacted learning, and if the current socially-distanced set up is actually offering a rich learning environment or if it is just ticking boxes as best it can.
So what can parents do now to promote resilience in their kids?
There is reason to be optimistic because research has shown that children are enormously resilient and once things get back to normal, activities like school and sports will tip the scales back in alignment. But rest assured, there are a lot of things we can do to help our kids manage in the meantime.
Listen to them:
It’s vital to listen to your kids and answer their questions as best you can. Always make sure that you answer in an age-appropriate and reassuring way.
While we may not be able to control the virus, we can control the routine in our own home. Daily routines like what time the family wakes up, how and where they eat, how days are structured, as well as bedtime routines like bathing, reading together and going to be on time, will all make a world of difference in their internal worlds and should be maintained where possible.
We parents are their bedrock:
When things hit rock-bottom parents and caregivers are the ones that help children recalibrate. Of course, this means we need to tune in and support them, but it also means that we need to be looking after our own mental health so we have the bandwidth to support them when things are uncertain.
The bottom line
Where the Pandemic once existed in our minds as a blip on the radar, it is definitely part of our present and will undoubtedly linger in our future, be it the virus itself or the consequences it has caused. As parents and caregivers, it’s important to widen our view and think carefully about how to raise healthy and happy kids in this context. These few but powerful changes can make a big difference in how our kid’s process and overcome this challenging experience.