Ok so first of all I want to say that this is as far from a public health announcement as you can get. Parents and carers absolutely should be protecting our children; ensuring that they are washing their hands regularly, observing social distancing wherever possible and generally being hygienic now and at all times.
As parents, keeping our children safe is always our main priority and I have no issues with the practical steps people are taking at a time of great uncertainty.
However, there is something equally if not more dangerous than the COVID-19 virus which we are still being exposed to as I write this.
I have spent some time coaching adults around the fears they have about their own health, their loved ones, abandoned and delayed celebrations, education, employment, finances and general restrictions to freedom. People are more stressed than ever and a mental health crisis following the current pandemic, exacerbated by understaffed resources with limited funding, is sadly inevitable.
But what about our children? As we as adults struggle to cope with the pressures and challenges we face, our children are paddling in the overflow of our emotions, whether we are aware of it or not.
A client recently told me that her daughter was uncharacteristically weepy and angry lately. When she finally confronted her daughter, she told her that she was worried because “Mummy is crying and sad a lot because Daddy is home”. My client’s husband has been made redundant and as much as they are trying to protect their daughter from the harsh realities of adult life, she is aware that there is a problem, and this is having a huge effect on her own mental wellbeing. She is five years old.
So, I want to share now what I shared with my client.
The reality that, in sharing the good, the bad and the ugly that life has to offer (in a way which is age appropriate) we have the opportunity to show our children how to be present in the moments that bring us joy and how to cope with the struggles and challenges that come along.
Neither experience is permanent and there is a rich conversation to be had around the idea that is it the lovely days that feed our soul, but it is the tough days that make us strong. That there is no shame in struggle as long as you have a plan on how to deal with it and don’t let it consume you and that there is no problem too big that can’t be sorted out if you talk about it.
Imagine a generation who saw conversation as a solution and not a barrier to supporting their mental health. Click To Tweet
Please don’t think I am suggesting for one minute that you use your child as an emotional crutch, counsellor or off load in the same way that you would to a friend.
What I am suggesting is that you consider that they are already aware that things have changed in your life and their vivid imaginations will fill the gaps that your silence creates.
- If you are grieving, talk about it and explain that it’s a natural process to miss someone you love and that the sadness gets less with time whereas the love stays the same.
- If you are unexpectedly job hunting, tell them that sometimes plans change a bit like a detour on a journey and that can be a bit scary but it’s also often the start of a new adventure and that change can be good sometimes.
- If finances are hard, maybe share that there is a bit less money coming into the house and do some online shopping together with the budget you do have. Make it fun!
I am in no way trivialising the struggles that people are having right now but I know that our children are far more perceptive than we give them credit for and to exclude them from our trials is a wasted opportunity for them to understand that in the future, when life is tough for them (as it will be at times), the good days give memories and tough times give lessons and maybe, just maybe they will feel better equipped to deal with their own struggles.
Protecting our children from a virus is essential. Protecting them from life is to deny them the knowledge and skills they will need to be happier adults and maybe when they have children of their own, the only thing they will be paddling in is the sea.