Wait a minute! I thought that awful virus thing would be gone by now! It’s not? No. Definitely no. Every day we see it’s still here and even more aggressive. We, the people, underestimated this storm and many are now paying the price of sickness or death. We, the people, have to stop it.
My main purpose for 30 years has been to advocate for children, parents and families. I can’t possibly imagine how difficult and demanding life has been for you. While there are real experts, and a few self-appointed ones, offering advice about the new story of our lives, I am not one of them. I don’t feel qualified to present solutions around testing, or treatment, or school status, but I, as the only parenting and family life educator in this area, do feel obligated to offer family support.
The ongoing uncertainties of work and school will add to our anxieties. So, my most important suggestion to families is to follow the public health officials presenting the science of defense and stability. We are our own immunity. We don’t yet have a vaccine or anything that fights this virus except ourselves, and to do that we simply follow the proven paths to reducing the cases. It’s the best we can do for now. If we want to open schools, businesses, our country, get folks back to work, the virus has to be reduced and that we can do with masks, hand washing, distancing, and staying away from places possibly loaded with the infection. Simple doings can move us in directions that will affect the change. We have to do this. We will never return to “how it was,” but we can create a new tomorrow.
During stressful times, children want to know three basic things: Am I safe? Are you, the people caring for me, safe? How will this situation affect my daily life?
As parents and caregivers, we need to speak to their concerns. And listen. How and when are critical so here are a few suggestions to help children of all ages with maintaining emotional stability and for you parents, tired and discouraged, to continue to find more energy and courage.
Structure a schedule and stick to it. Disruption causes stress, so maintain your routines as closely as you can. Productivity and purposefulness help channel anxious energy. Help others. Practice gratitude. Children deal with their losses poorly, help them remember some good times keeping the positive feelings alive and well.
Above all, take good care of yourself. Talk with folks who support you, find new interests. Give yourself breaks and rest.
Validate feelings and fears. Your child’s emotional reactions will outweigh their thoughts and concerns. Empower them with the behaviors that science recommends so the children follow with good choices. Provide reassurance. Remind the family of past challenges with good outcomes.
These are just a few of many suggestions and all I have room for here. I have posted pages of resources that you will find helpful. Go to www.scpen.net the South Carolina Parenting Education Network and click on the tab, Family Resources, or go directly there http://www.scpen.net/FAMILY-RESOURCES-1.html There are age and developmentally listings.
Finding a way to communicate within our families is critical to reducing the challenges for now and those that might develop in the future.
No one knows the ultimate outcome. Living with uncertainty is indeed difficult. We can help each other become more resilient, emotionally stable, and physically protected through careful plans with our family and community members in patient, loving and caring ways.
Above all, don’t lose heart. More next month.
Jim R. Rogers, M. ED., CFLE