We are navigating uncharted waters right now. The national lockdown affects all of us, but it is especially difficult for children to understand. Here are three ways parents can help their children to make sense of it and thrive in the ‘new normal’ that we will call life after Covid-19.
With the enforced lockdown, come new levels of isolation and stress and emotion. As a therapist, I am trained to visit uncomfortable and sometimes scary feelings and emotions in myself. It’s all part of my ongoing journey of self-discovery. However, not everyone is able or willing to do so. During this lockdown, many of us are experiencing myriad fears, emotions and thoughts.
Impact of uncertainty
Most humans thrive on certainty and predictability. Consequently, if we can be ‘guaranteed’ an outcome then we can ‘trust’ life. But now, nothing is certain. What we assumed would always be a ‘given’ has been ripped from us, literally overnight.
As we wade through these new waters, we are being impacted in every way possible. Our children are affected – directly by their own experiences as well as indirectly by what impacts us. Therefore, if we are centered and philosophical about what’s happening right now, our children will be too.
Children and anxiety
Children can manifest anxiety and stress in many forms. From testing boundaries to excessive crying, worrying and obsessing or being ‘badly behaved’ or ‘out of sorts’. Being anxious and stressed is actually a normal part of the human condition. Feeling fear and reacting in ways that attempt to self preserve are also normal. Coping with stress and anxiety is a life skill that ideally should be learned when young. Conscious parenting is even more important now.
3 ways to help your children
1. Lead, don’t save
Allowing our children to experience a safe and appropriate level of ‘healthy’ stress without us stepping in to fix and save them from these life experiences can be truly valuable on all levels. According to studies, the brain of an overly-anxious child behaves differently to that of a ’normally-anxious’ child. So, it’s important to model a healthy response to stress. This will create new neural pathways in ourselves and, therefore, update our children’s reactions. Simply put, if we improve our ways of handling stress, so will our children.
2. Cultivate flexibility and creativity
Remember it is normal and healthy to experience stress. If we don’t challenge ourselves to push forward into the new and unknown, we don’t develop as individuals. Lockdown offers the chance to learn to be more flexible and discover new resources in ourselves. It offers a vital opportunity for humanity to adapt and evolve on very fundamental levels – within ourselves and our families. This virus could be seen as a way for us to learn new ways of living, thinking, behaving and parenting. We are being asked to take care of our communities, our country and our planet. And, we are being asked to take care of ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
3. Remain open and centered
If you remain open, willing and centered you will update yourself on every level, then your child will automatically follow suit. We often stick to well-worn pathways of behaviour, thinking and feeling. but what if there are more fulfilling ways of connecting with ourselves and those around us? More importantly, what if there are new ways of parenting? Think about asking “how can I best take care of myself right now? What brings me joy and fulfillment? What am I doing during lockdown that is helping me to be more myself and to have more balance? How can I take that forward post lockdown?”
These are challenging times. What if doing or trying to be the best version of ourselves is what is needed by us, our families and humanity right now? Getting there will require lots of self-honesty, determination, flexibility of mind and a positive and hopeful attitude.
If we become the change we wish to see in the world, and if we adapt and grow in ourselves, then we are giving our children the best chance at thriving in the ‘new normal’.
Joanne Galliven, Child Behavioural Therapist