Written by Kristin Greco, MSW & Edited by Madia Javid-Yazdi, M.Ed.
Is your best not feeling adequate? It’s okay. I can empathize.
We are experiencing a global crisis. As this invisible war evolves, it continues to remind us that the dangerous or lethal weapon could be someone we love the most. This is extraordinary. It is unimaginable. Yet, here we are. We have collectively encountered a period in our lives where (more than ever before) it is essential to be present in the moment.
And in this moment, I want to remind you our lives are currently not “normal.” We are in crisis, which is why surviving is enough. Attempts to thrive can result in disillusionment, perpetuating the devastation and/or grief that many of us already face. Likewise, our children are in crisis, and it is imperative we do not lose sight of this.
I have come across social media posts of children engaging happily in their daily schedules, which include online learning. However, what I’ve noticed more is adults and children alike experiencing uncertainty about the many facets of their lives; facets some of us have taken for granted and have not had to question before: When will the children go back to school? Will I lose my job? Will we have enough food? Can I cope with this isolation? When will I be able to hug my loved one again? Can I endure the loneliness? How can I work full-time, care for my children, and facilitate home school? As a frontline worker, will I contract the virus and bring it home to my children or loved ones? What are my choices? Do I have choices?
Many first responders, healthcare workers, or essential service workers cannot — and ought not to — prioritize the academic learning of their children at this time. They are living day-to-day, struggling to stay safe, battling to keep their families and children protected (if they can see them at all). Other caregivers work from home full-time and cannot prioritize their children’s academic learning without risking their job security.
Work meetings and conference calls are cut short, interrupted, or conducted in a state of anxiety as parents hear their children’s calls and see their fingers reach under the door of makeshift offices set up in closets and bedrooms. I have laid awake at night thinking about the necessary decision to close our schools, while simultaneously wondering about the children who reside in homes that are unsafe for various reasons.
It is understandable then, that parents may feel a rise in guilt, inadequacy, anxiety, frustration, anger, and chaos. And you may be noticing fear, anger, loneliness, and anxiety in your child.
These emotional and/or physical barriers prevent children from engaging effectively in online schooling that the minister of education has directed.
To this end, as a clinician I would like to offer a reminder that when we help ourselves, we ultimately help our children. A child’s perception of their environment is often dependent on:
All the above can perpetuate a child’s precarious imagination, potentially leading to symptoms or behavioural changes indicative of anxiety, depression, and/or trauma, if not attended to. And they will ultimately struggle to retain academic information if their social/emotional wellbeing is not prioritized.
During this time of crisis, there are ways to establish structure and obtain control over a situation that feels utterly out of control. Here are a few suggestions:
You can attempt to facilitate and set academic goals. However, gauge your child’s emotions and behaviours. If this means modifying or taking a break from online learning, speak to your child’s teacher and advocate for you and your child. Teachers are trying their best too and want to help. Remember, children are resilient. They can recover, catch up, and thrive.
Each day, practice what you feel is best for you and your family. Although it is often said that we are all in this together, our individual experience is not a collective one. In this moment, attempt to trust your instinct to guide you; and occasionally our children can help us to do that.