Post Mortem

Helping our children cope the pandemic

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 8/27/2020 12:12:55 PM IST

 Everything that has unfolded in these past few months has been difficult for all of us to comprehend. Not only for us but our parents and grandparents, we have never been prepared for this kind of a situation. This is so much bigger than anything anyone of us had experienced collectively. We never had to deal with something quite like this until now. And it’s fair to say this crisis has also generated feelings of uncertainty, insecurity, boredom, confusion, fear, chaos, helplessness and frustration. Despite all that, we as adults are doing all we can in ways we know to cope through the experience we have gained over the years. Even though it’s a trial and error process, it gives us a sense of control and calmness. Unfortunately our children being smart don’t have that richness of experience that can provide them a sense of perspective. So a lot of how they are going to understand all that is happening mostly depends on the adults surrounding them. It’s been few months since the pandemic started so we have become habituated staying at home but doesn’t mean it’s easy. And though we are all trying to manage our complex self together, it becomes very important to remind ourselves to look at these changes through the child’s lenses.

Now we are all aware how in the beginning of the lockdown, both children and adults were at ease like on vacation. But when it became clear, this virus was in for the long haul the honeymoon phase came to an end. Then it dawned on us parents that we not only had to work from home but become our child’s teacher too. And thousands of other challenges followed as if the flood gates were wide opened. Children of all stages, they had to deal with the change in their daily structure. Attending school, interacting with friends and teachers, tuition classes, the fun of mid day meals, Sunday school, church, visiting grandparents/ relatives, mall/restaurant visits and a lot of their normal activities were restricted. They were bombarded with information on how they had to follow a new norm in order to stay safe which might have been overwhelming in the beginning. Even though they were very well aware all the reasons; why? They had to follow all the instructions. It was also necessary to know that some students had to deal with grief over the loss of not being able to attend their final year of school or transitioning into college, 3 or 4 year olds missing their first year of school, teenagers missing out school activities, or seeing their crush in person such a major thing, trivial for us adults. But when we were young it made sense so better use the same yard stick. Even though these thoughts are not consistent it’s an ongoing struggle they endure. As adults we may be able to sympathise but we exactly don’t know how this feels; since we have never been in those shoes where we have missed those milestones. The family dynamics can also create internal blocks like single parent household, health issues in the family, drug/alcohol abuse, verbal and physical violence in the family, financial crisis or job loss, child with neurodevelopment disorder, parent’s as frontline worker, both working parents. Each of these family conditions is different and has its unique challenges and consequences sometimes raising concerns for mental health issues. With all these transitions they have to alter overnight mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, and socially. It demands that we as their care takers are vigilant making sure that the wellbeing of our children are looked after. We can start with having open and honest conversations about how we are unsure of when all this is going to end but that this is not permanent. Share your struggles and worries in words and ways that are appropriate for their cognitive and emotional reasoning. Using words like death, dooms day, end of the world, or everything is falling apart is something we need to be mindful with. Such statements can cause more stress and anxiety because every child responds differently. Even if it annoys them checking up on how everything is going, if the information that they are expose to is accurate or not occasionally is important, since there are many fake news around. Because even if most of the time they are managing themselves well, sometimes they might be bothered. So acknowledging and creating a safe space where their thoughts and emotions are validated in healthy and non judgmental ways; sends a message to the child that is a human thing and they are going to be listened to. But it’s also crucial how parents stand as model in their body language, speech, tone, how they interact with each other, managing conflicts and resolving daily challenges. Because we need to remember that kids are smart and observant of everything around them. They pick up on all these cues and will use these as strategies in different life situations to solve problems. So as parent we should be aware of how the environment we create in turn creates us. It is always a symbiotic relationship. It is also essential to maintain a schedule like dinner time, study time, sleep hygiene, prayer time, being occupied with their gadgets, personal time, physical activity where everyone is involved like chores, games, and exercise; having a schedule where all the family members are participating brings a sense of collective coping creating a strong support system. But when they don’t listen and are being difficult they need to be held accountable and dealt with constructively. Parents can also seek help from teachers, school counsellor/ therapist, counselling organisations, other parents or adults, and those teachers who have been trained under the SCERT nine months diploma course in school counselling, started under the initiative of the department 

Shri T.Sekhose   (SCERT, Director), Professor Zavise Rume, Ms. Amongla Jamir and team. It’s a smart step towards a more inclusive and holistic approach because the education system today is not just helping our children perform better academically, but also helping the students deal with life challenges and demands that affect their development. So, these teachers are trained to provide mental health assistance to students. Also for parents having to manage children with neurodevelopment disorder can be very difficult especially during these times. Since parents are not able to take their children for their therapies. It would be beneficial if they can continue those interventions and strategies from home with the consultation of special educators, therapist and doctors. Also CIHSR Dimapur provides teleconsultation for children with special needs thus helping to reduce the anxiety of hospital visitations so the whole process is completed from the safety of one’s home.

These uncertain times, can be seen as a growing experience. Learning self-care, maintaining healthy togetherness and boundaries, stress management, compassion, finding inner strength. Also teaching our children how life is not always a straight line but at times demands that we learn to be flexible and creative. Even though the amount of time we are spending with our family is increased. We can use this time as a unique opportunity to build our relationships especially if we have some differences with one of our children. Though as parents and adults we might not get things right a lot of times, as long as we are able to transmit optimism and carry out some of this basic safety measures we’ll just be fine for whatever is to come next. 

Temsumenla, Counselling Psychologist, 

Member, All Nagaland Counsellors Association

 

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