With the second wave of covid-19 hitting hard and with strict restrictions imposed, the hope of returning to the joys of the past in 2021 seems to have been washed away. Children are beginning to ask some questions that go over and beyond the current situation. “Will we be able to ever see school again?”, “My friends are sick, will they be ok?”, “Will we never meet people again?”, are some questions that are leaving parents lost and grappling for answers.
The stress on the physiological apparatus and minds of our little ones is apparent and thick in year two of the pandemic. And many parents are finding it hard to comfort their children.
I have for you an instalment of six key points to help us all tide through those heart-wrenching moments when we have to answer their grim questions.
Don't be alarmed. In the chaos and confusion around us, no question is baseless. Often our immediate reaction is to deny our child’s feeling by saying, "How can we feel this way, or even think like tha"t. Some parents jump into comforting and cajoling, while there are otherswho get too upset to be able to answer. Instead, try taking a deep breath and respond with something like: “I’m sorry you feel this way, tell me more”, “I am right here for you to share how you feel”.
Also read: Parenting is all about making connections
Treat this as an opportunity to know what is going on in your child’s mind. Their questions and behaviour are a great window into observing the same. These questions are good news. The simple reason is that we know what our children are feeling, their struggles and battles through their verbal and non verbal communication. If difficult questions are being thrown at us, the real thing to get to and address is the inner dialogue our kids are having with themselves.
It may be a good time to pull up your sleeves and demonstrate all you got to cope with anxiety. Let us not pretend that we don't experience stress and anxiety, leaving children wondering if they are doing something wrong by being anxious. Let your kids watch you talk about it normally, manage news calmly, use strategies such as breathing, meditation and gratitude practice to get through it. If you make art or music to relax, help them turn to it via demonstration. If you depend upon exercise or cooking, involve them in the hobby and show them how it relaxes you.
Bring the focus and conversation to now. Most of the questions asked by them are about what will happen in the future. It is important to help children understand and practice mindfulness, which is basically awareness, consciousness, gratitude and investment in the present. This dissipates dreadful thoughts about the future, thereby reducing the stress or alarm response of the body and mind.
Ask them what they would like to do as a family to help others. I have always believed that subliming worry into a reflective or productive action helps us cope better. By helping children to develop this strategy, not only will they manage to discharge the negative thoughts into constructive action, but also realise that they can choose to cope and not mope, that they have the strength to make a difference, that at times what feel stressed or moved with, is a reminder for us of the value we hope to add to others lives.
Truck loads of optimism. This is probably where you exclaim, "Really? How?" Let us understand what optimism is. Optimism is a recognition of the difficulty, acceptance of the challenge and the faith that this is the best today possible at the moment. Reviewing our comprehension of optimism and sharing this with our children, in response to some of their questions, can help them with an empowering perspective to cope with the chaos around them.
Shwetambara Sabharwal is a Mumbai based psychologist, psychotherapist and a mother of two.