Having worked with parents and kids over the last few months, during our ‘stay home’ efforts, I have a new perspective on exactly how resilient our children are. Even the children who may have had emotional and behavioural challenges to start with are finding ways to cope and regulate their feelings. Most of the parents are concerned with potential consequences as a result of the shifts in their social or academic lives, or simply a loss of normalcy. Some even say their children are feeling less safe as they hear about more people getting sick and even dying.
Some kids have become extra grouchy, some seem to have abandoned their favourite activities, some throw more tantrums, and some have lost all motivation for schoolwork (actually, probably more than some, and I can’t say I blame them).
These are all acceptable behaviours. Yes, acceptable! Kids have been forcibly confined to certain spaces with certain people. They are also missing the balance that existed in their lives. The pendulum is not swinging – it is, and has been for months now, heavily parked on one side for them.
But, are the kids ok? Yes, they are, and they will be. There is a vast body of research that informs us that kids are more resilient than we can imagine. The world’s most renowned child psychologists are chiming in on how this time has affected the kids and there is a consistent theme among them that our kids will be just fine.
Resilience theory tells us that children who have support systems, positive self-image and positive relationships, are children that will be able to handle adversity and bounce back from unfavourable events. And yes, while the kids are dealing with everything that they have been deprived of, this will not be a long-lasting trauma.
Let’s talk about parents, though.
It has never been easy to be a parent. Even in the best of times, parents have felt pressure, guilt and self-doubt in how they parent their children. This is a heavy burden to live with every day. The context in which we are raising our children is evolving rapidly and that rate of change can bring on a lot of stress for parents.
COVID-19 has illustrated this perfectly. Nobody expected this, but as parents, we were forced to adapt and move quickly. And while many embraced this as a great opportunity for building a better family life foundation, others (many others) felt extremely tasked as employees, parents, make-shift teachers, and a number of other roles that they did not expect to be responsible for. And while kids are loving the extra snacks and screen time that allow parents to do their Zoom calls without interruption, parents are feeling guilty for not being able to plan meals, help with homework or stick to a schedule.
Let’s face it – this situation has been a powerful combo of overwhelming uncertainty, financial insecurity, and for many, grief. This is a lot to deal with, in addition to being a parent.
Please, stop and take a breath.
Loosen up the schedule, let them have an extra snack, extend the gaming by fifteen minutes. Kids will not have any significant deficits from any of those and they will bounce back, whereas you will likely add unnecessary long-term effects of stress and overextending yourself. We need to make sure you will be there for them once this is all over, as yes, it will come to an end.
Just know that many parents are feeling what you feel and take comfort in knowing that our kids will be ok.
Hillcrest Health Network Toronto has created a program designed to provide some respite for parents, given the absence of in-person camps. We have recruited elementary and middle school teachers for 1:1 or 2:1 with kids. The program focuses on recreational activities with educational elements, while maintaining safety precautions regarding COVID-19. Visit our site for more information and feel free to reach out.