These are testing times. And the ramifications reach far and wide across every facet of our lives.
It’s challenging enough for adults to get their heads around what’s going on but how on earth are children and young people supposed to figure this all out in their heads – to try to make sense of it all?
They can’t see their friends (OK, with the easing of Lockdown, maybe you’re allowing them to see one friend at a time but how weird for them that they must remain two metres apart and depending on their age, can you trust them to do that?!), their education as they know it has come to a halt and a whole new way of learning has been introduced. They may have missed Prom, If they are GCSE or A Level students, maybe they worry about what will come of their grades. They cannot see extended family. All their clubs and activities have ceased to run and the simple pleasure of going to the park is no longer allowed.
If they are older, it’s perhaps easier with the home-schooling as they’re more self-directed and self-sufficient but then there’s maybe push back and they’re questioning what’s the point when there are no consequences from school if the work isn’t done. With older children, it’s easier to explain the Lockdown guidelines and reason with them but perhaps with the maturity, there comes the challenges they put to your arguments of keeping this going as the weeks go on.
With younger children, those particular questions from them are probably not there but you’ll maybe have different issues. It’s more challenging to keep them entertained, they might need more hands-on help with home-schooling and they’re maybe not feeling motivated to do it, plus, it’s unknown territory for them this online learning malarkey. They may show their frustrations through hissy fits and they’re less able to talk about how they’re feeling and why.
Being the grown-up in the scenario
One of my good friends – let’s call her Nikki for anonymity sake – is currently struggling with the emotions of her three children. Jack is 16 and is awaiting his fate as far as his GCSE grades are concerned. He’s a fab kid and bright but he’s lazy and a last-minute crammer and despite Nikki’s efforts to encourage him to be consistent with his studies and revision for Mock exams for the past two years, it’s largely fallen on deaf ears. So, things are in the balance with the grades he’ll be awarded based on past exam results and coursework. Jack is panicking because he needs good grades to get into a specialist College. So, Nikki is fighting fires there and doing what she can to contact teachers to find out what might be happening. But with most things right now, it’s all a big unknown.
Nikki’s daughter is in Year 9 and at 14, has enough emotions for the whole house. She really really misses her friends. Yes, House Party, Instagram and Netflix parties are all well and good, but she misses seeing them in person. Young people need their friends so they can blow off steam, moan about home, talk through and process stuff. Sophia’s school has already started them on their GCSE syllabus and Nikki says Sophia is struggling with the whole ‘next stage’ thing – feeling like life is moving fast but she wants to stay a child. I think as grown-ups we sometimes feel that!
And then there’s Sam, Nikki’s youngest son. He starts High School in September and so is one of the year group who are invited back to school from 1 June. Sam misses his friends but is getting very anxious about returning to school. Sam’s school sent a video outlining how things will need to work to ensure safety for pupils and teachers. It shows 2m stickers all over the school, hand sanitiser stations, desks set apart, nothing but lunchboxes and drink bottles to be brought in from home, pupils will be ‘bubbles’ of only 12 and so forth. This is the new face of schooling. Does Nikki send Sam back for the last half-term to get him mentally ready for the new face of schooling? But will this heighten Sam’s anxiety and mean his OCD escalates? Or does she keep him safe at home, yet mindful of the fact he’ll start High School in September after a long break from school and need to get his head round being back, plus a totally new environment, not to mention all these new health and safety precautions.
Tis all a conundrum and one which many many families are currently facing. And how do parents navigate all these differing emotions? Not just their own but attempting to help their children too…
This is the time we wish we had a magic wand. As parents, we want to fix things for our children – to take away the pain, heartache and anxiety.
We cannot change the fact that COVID-19 is here. However, we do have choices in all this and helping young people to understand that, will help them to gain a much-needed sense of control in all this when they might be feeling it’s a hopeless situation.
We can choose to be led by fear and worry, or we can choose to be resilient. We can choose to see that it is what it is – a situation we cannot change but that eventually, we will come through the other side. We can choose to adhere to guidelines, or we can choose not to but that there are consequences. We can help them to understand that we will be able to see friends and family in person but that right now, we can be with them in other ways, albeit virtually.
It’s about helping children to know that they do have choices – which have good outcomes or potentially harmful consequences. It’s knowing that there are things they can do to give them a sense of purpose – to have a goal that gives them a sense of achievement – whatever that might look like for them.
There will be ‘down’ days – days when they might feel frustrated, anxious and scared and that’s OK because that’s completely normal and we all feel like that sometimes. It’s OK not to be OK but it’s not OK to stay that way, so keep those lines of communication open.
Where’s the Sat Nav?!
We are all in unknown territory here, there is no roadmap for us to follow. The only thing we can control in all of this is the nature of our thinking.
Wouldn’t it be great to have an adulty adult to swoop in and advise us on the best course of action when those weighty decisions need to be made or when there’s another challenge with one of your children?! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if any fallout of those decisions could be blamed on someone else…
Unfortunately, that ain’t gonna happen, so, it’s time to don those big girl/big boy pants and be the role model needed right now.
Remember, any decision we make at that precise moment in time is made with all the knowledge, expertise and wisdom we currently have. At a later point, with good ole 20-20 vision, with the same circumstances, we might choose a different path, but we cannot blame ourselves for previous decisions. We make all our choices based on the knowledge we have and led by our values.
This current situation will eventually change and there will be a new normal but if we ourselves choose to be resilient and resourceful, with a solution-orientated mindset, we are the best role-models our children can have.
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