You may have read many articles and blogs over the past few weeks (including ones from us here at Role Models) highlighting the importance of supporting your child through this uncertain time. Articles which outline how this pandemic will be taking a toll on their mental wellbeing and how we must find ways to mitigate the impact. What about reframing the experience? This is not to say that any of the past few weeks can be seen as a positive or welcomed experience. Yet, are there any beneficial life lessons to be drawn from it? Yes.
The past few weeks have presented us with a strange new world, unlike anything we have ever seen before. For parents, many will have gone into ‘protection mode’ seeking to shelter our children from the worst of the news and the scale of the impact. However, while we try our best to keep our children shielded and safe, we should also be open to the learning opportunities within this unique situation we find ourselves in:
We don’t ever want to scare our children about the current pandemic and make them feel unsafe in the world they live in. However, part of growing up involves understanding that sometimes things happen which can be upsetting. These are often things we don’t have control over and they are things we need to find the strength and resilience to endure. Bad things sometimes happen, and our children are learning that although these things can be difficult, we can get through them.
Perhaps the pandemic has been the first experience your child or family have had to really explore the concept of loss. Learning to talk openly about death with your children can be a difficult thing to do and might perhaps be one which you have managed to avoid up until now. When your child asks ‘Are granny and grandpa going to die?’ or ‘Will you and daddy catch the virus?’ there’s an honesty these questions induce and an open conversation to be had with your child around the concept of death.
Over the coming weeks and months, we will all no doubt be confronted with many raw examples of grief within our communities, now is the time to let our children see and understand this process rather than hiding it from them. This can be done in an appropriate way for the age of your child and a good starting point is to meet your child with where they are; what’s their current understanding and what questions do they have?
When will I go back to school after the pandemic? Will we be able to go on holiday again? When will the virus go away? There are so many questions which can’t be answered. This inability to reassure your child may leave you all feeling anxious. Yet learning to live with uncertainty is another important life lesson to be explored. Telling your child that you can’t answer their questions as we don’t yet know the answers might feel uncomfortable, but there are ways to reassure them that there are people working on finding out the answers and until then they should know that they are safe and secure. Your child will also take their cue from those around them; if they can see you learning to be ok with uncertainty, then they too can begin to accept this feeling.
For many, lockdown has been hard. A heady cocktail of pressure, confinement, home schooling, tempers fraying and siblings clashing. But there are also stories of connection. Parents who feel they have had the opportunity to really get to know their children and connect through learning with them, siblings who have spent more time playing together than ever before and those who have reached out to family members far away much more regularly than before. Whether it’s spending more quality time together with loved ones or less due to lockdown, it’s helped us and our children appreciate the power and importance of connection.
Through our online sessions, I’ve heard from many children who have told me about cancelled birthday parties, changed plans, dashed holiday plans… not one of them has spoken with anger or resentment about these things. I think this is one of the lessons we often try and teach in vain to our children; 'do they really know how lucky they are?', 'Do they really appreciate the things they are so lucky to have?', 'can they understand the concept of delayed gratification?'. Hearing a child say, ‘I can’t celebrate with my friends right now or receive my birthday presents, but that’s ok, we’ll do something special when things get back to normal’, that is an invaluable life lesson.
We know the past few months have been tough due to the pandemic and we don’t want to pretend otherwise. It can be helpful though to take the time to consider what your child will have taken from the experience. So as we edge towards the return to school and work, if you’re worrying whether your child might be behind in their learning, just take a moment to remind yourself of the lessons they’ve learned which you may not have explicitly taught. These can be just as important or in some cases, more so, than what the curriculum had in store for them this summer.
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