We have been Psychotherapists in private practice; working with children, teens and families for many years. As we all know, these are uncertain times and anxieties are high. We thought putting this out there, might help guide any parents who are struggling to know what they can be doing to help their children and society, as a whole, to get through this.
COVID19 UPDATE - MARCH 2020
Firstly, don't underestimate how adaptable humans are, particularly children. Your children will adapt and cope better than you think. Although it is important to try to protect them from the anxiety you as a parent feel day to day, it is also important to communicate and talk to them about what is going on, in a developmentally appropriate way (e.g. for little ones don't give more information than they are asking, as cognitively, they are not old enough).
However, most importantly no matter what age, listen to their worries, allow them to have those feelings and know that they have been heard, understood and resonated with, without feeling that you, as a parent, need to take their worries away, because unfortunately you can't. Just knowing that you know how they are feeling and that they can come to you, will comfort them immensely.
Please do not try to pretend that nothing is going on. Nothing good will come from a child being told everything is okay and that it will all return to normal soon, only to look around and clearly see that things aren't okay and things won't be back to how they were for quite some time. Even if we can turn this around quickly, things won't be how they were, and we all need to absorb some of the impact for the greater good.
Resilience, positivity, personal sacrifices, compassion, empathy and social responsibility will be the major difference on how individuals, Australians and the world get through this. How Australian's fare in those crucial qualities will echo through history. Talk to your child about these qualities and praise them any time you see them practising these, in any way. Make them feel like they are making a difference, because to be perfectly honest they will be. How do we want future generations to look back on us?
Your children need to know that things will change, along with the expectations of them (to some degree), but we will all work together and get through this stronger and more connected than before. The best way to instil those qualities mentioned above is to model them and encourage them in everyday life as much as you can.
Be honest with your children. Empower them. Try to explain to them that life is going to be a bit different for quite some time, but how different in 1, 2, 5 or 10 years is up to what we do as Australian's right now.
When this is all over and we are watching movies and reading books about true heroes, it will be right now that the stories take place. Explain to your children that they have an opportunity to be a hero in their own story. However, unlike in their entertainment, it won't be by shooting Zombies and making iron man suits etc., it will be by doing the little things. It will be by doing all the things that we are being asked to do to stop the spread of the virus, plus more. It will be by not doing what is easy but doing what is right and what needs to be done. It will be by not expecting an expensive birthday present. It will be by helping their family function well, by listening and doing what is asked by parents, without having to be asked 10 times. It will be by staying vigilant but calm and positive, seeing this as a challenge and applying themselves to roll with the punches and accept change, at least for the foreseeable future, with their heads held high.
Being Australians we have a unique opportunity to turn this around faster than other countries if we make sacrifices now. We are more isolated and have a less dense population than the majority of the world. We have a culture that prides itself on mateship, positivity, compassion, resourcefulness, education and humour, in the face of hardship. Now is the time to apply all of these qualities, whole heartedly, as a community and a nation, so we can pat ourselves on the back when this is all over.
Change doesn't necessarily have to be all bad. There is a lot of good that could come out of this if we allow it, as a culture. It is often said, when talking about resilience, that 'calm waters, make for poor sailors'. For many generations many of us have had calm waters, however, we are going to really need to instil resilience and social responsibility in our children and the culture, as a whole, very quickly, if we are to come out of this well. Let's all do our part, model what is important and instil in our children the idea that when Australians are asked what we are made of, we rise to the occasion.
Please contact Embley House by email or on 0404 077 966 if you would like child, teen or family counselling by Facetime, skype or Phone. Stay safe and look after each other
Jeff and Donna