It is the beginning of a new world order with Covid-19 being touted as the new normal, and as adults we are all navigating new challenges. These challenges range across work, life and parenting. However, how are our children and teenagers adjusting to this new order? At first glance, one would imagine that one main restriction of the pandemic, namely closed schools would be a dream come true for some children and teenagers. However, for others it seems as though the inability to attend school is quite shockingly for some of them, a nightmare.
Consider this, prior to the pandemic, when was the last time you heard children/teenagers complaining about the fact that there was no school? I definitely cannot recall. This was a very rare occurrence. I now hear this statement on a daily basis, from my younger clients and their parents. It is now apparent that aside from the educational aspects, the formal concept and consistent nature of school has been a mental/emotional safety net for some children and teenagers and without it, many of them are feeling confused, overwhelmed and grieving its loss; no more sharing of snacks, playing of games, no schoolyard gossip among friends and definitely no change of scenery from home, as your home is now your school. Reflect on your own experiences as adults when you first started navigating the frustrations of having your home space be your work space. Or, even if you haven’t been working from home, you may as well be due to all of the current pandemic restrictions, think about not being able to socialize with your friends, or de-stress with a change of scenery from your home and how this makes you feel. I know that it doesn’t always feel so good.
So how can we as adults and guardians support the children and teenagers in our lives as they like us, adjust to major changes and building new lives within this new world order?
- Ensure that you safeguard your mental/emotional space as a parent or guardian, so that you can support their needs and wants. If you are having difficulty with managing your own mental health, seek support.
- Monitor children’s and teenagers ‘mental health. Pay attention to changes in their behaviour, emotional responses and personality traits. Ask questions if changes are noticed, engage and show that you are interested.
- Be mindful of how you talk about the pandemic in their presence or within earshot, as this can either increase or decrease fear/anxiety about this unknown. If questioned, try to provide age appropriate explanations in simple terms. Additionally, limit their exposure to information overload about the pandemic. Remember if you panic, then they will also panic.
- Model Safety Protocol so that through your example, children can learn how to keep themselves and others safe. Wash hands, sanitize, wear masks and physically distance to that they can easily understand and follow your example. Children model behaviours practiced by the adults in their lives.
- Allow time for indoor or outdoor play based upon your living circumstances. Everyone doesn’t have an outdoor space or boxes or toys and board games. However, within your own personal situation, you can help kids to find and create new hobbies or other means of self-entertainment.
- Spend time together as a family in a way that fits your personal circumstances and budget. Each family’s situation is different, so focus on your family.
- Allow children/teenagers to connect with their friends virtually to maintain important social contact.
- Remember that your parenting is not defined by anyone’s perceptions but your own. Do what you can and if you can’t or need assistance, then reach out for support. Remember that although we are all different and are living through diverse experiences, ultimately, we are all in this together.