I have heard a lot said about how our children’s mental health will be negatively affected by this pandemic, so I thought I would address this. This notion suggests that our children are not meant to encounter any challenges in life. Or that they can not overcome challenges. We all face challenges in life, our children included. It’s not life’s obstacles that necessarily impair our mental health. It is how we respond to those obstacles and how we are supported through it that determines how we recover from the challenges. So, our children can survive a pandemic, dare I even say thrive in one.
Children for the most part are resilient optimistic humans. Resilience is the ability to bounce back from adversity, challenges or trauma. Often, you bounce back a better version of you having learned from the experience. I have faith that our children will bounce back from this. When children are given the opportunity to navigate through stressful situations with guidance and reassurance, you are equipping them with the ability to work through their own problems. That’s a great step towards their independence and well-being.
Unfortunately as parents, we can’t protect our children from every obstacle despite our best efforts. All we can do is be there for them through life’s up and downs. This pandemic is an opportunity to demonstrate this to them. During this period, as parents you are probably spending a lot more time with your children. They will love that, just you being actively present does wonders for your child. As parents you will probably be doing a lot to reassure your children and manage their expectations. Most children are privileged enough to be in a home where they are nurtured and responded to and have their needs met regularly. Yes you have had anxious or stressed moments as a parent, yes you have been shouty mum/dad, yes you have allowed too much screen time and I am sure there are days you simply haven’t had the energy. All of these things of course have an impact, children pick up on energies. However, it is what you do consistently that matter and you are not shouty mum/dad all the time. Children don’t begrudge you an off day.
The change this period brings will also allow children to use their own internal resources as coping strategies with your guidance and role modelling. It will allow them to explore, be creative and less structured. This can instill a new found confidence in them. It will allow an opportunity to miss friends and important relationships and really value them. We also have to be mindful not to put adult expectations on children. I have seen a few posts about children’s birthdays and having to ‘make do’ under the circumstances. The tone of those posts being about making do and how understanding the child has been. Yet in those same posts, I have seen party decor, cake, gifts and siblings and other family members in the picture. What if that is enough? What if that’s what birthdays should be about? Children really can be happy with less.
I don’t want to make this about the things you could be doing to look after your child’s mental health. I do that in my other posts and on my social media pages. Instead, I want to use this as an opportunity to reassure you that most children can and will get through this period due to their resilience. Factors that contribute to resilience are strong emotional connections and relationships which they have in abundance with you. They are in a home where they are safe and nurtured. They have the ability to communicate their feelings. They are kept entertained and busy with a range of activities, be it home schooling, walks with family or splashing around in the garden. All of these things will ensure this period although significant will be a blip in their journey through life.
This will be an opportunity to nurture and encourage that natural positivity that children have. A lot of parents have had to adapt, be resilient and find a way to survive during this period. This is OK for children to see, parents role modelling resilience in adversity. Showing that life isn’t perfect but we are capable of getting through life’s challenges. So parents, trust yourselves, trust your parenting, and trust your children. They are already equipped to get through this. That’s the beauty of children and childhood.