Children learn what they live, wellness in times of crisis

In our current times, as communities, countries and the world come together to fight a world health crisis, on a daily level many big changes are affecting our lives. Schools are shutting down, people are being asked to work from home, people are being asked to travel only if necessary, institutions and places of gathering are closing down. I sometimes  wonder about what our children will take away from this once it is behind us?

Right now how we talk about and engage with this new and temporary reality plays a very significant role in how our children perceive, react to, and behave in a crisis.

  • Our language around adapting to the change:  So, how are we doing? We have to adapt to having our children around 24/7, maybe work from home and of course continue to manage our daily chores. With  all our responsibilities coming together and needing our attention at the same time, it could be quite demanding and overwhelming. It is equally frustrating for our children to not have their peers for company or have limitations on their activities and play time. The change in routine for them, could leave them irritable and restless. When we are  aware that the situation is tough for all, one is able to rise above the personal discomfort and reach out to support one another in the family. The home should  not be the place where the children are hearing constant grumbles about the crisis, but an environment where adults can role model being proactive both emotionally and practically. Children can understand and learn that they can voice their frustration and once heard, they accept and adapt to their new routine. They also learn that they can be supportive of others, because they have received it from us. Overall, this positive acceptance of the temporary change builds resilience in children. 

  • Being in touch:  These times of slow living are bringing families to be and do so much together. For many of us, it might not be that easy to live in close quarters with family, with minimal personal time and space, and no external activity or stimulus. Yet, this might be the best time for us to understand, relate well with our parents, spouse and children. Sticking to a routine that works for the group, doing activities together, and even working on conflict resolution when necessary, will truly help in making this time easier and meaningful for all. 

On the other hand, due to the need for social distancing, we are not able to meet other near and dear ones. So, it has become even more important to include others into our world by keeping in touch through calls, video calls, emails, and chats. Keeping children in the loop of being in touch and enquiring about others from family, friends and the families of people who help us run our homes; schools, etc keeps the community connected and inclusive.  Reaching out to others is a life skill. Reaching out to others during these troubled times is a balm. When children see us connect with others because we are concerned about their welfare, we are creating a ripple of deep wellness. We are also showing them the importance and value of family and community bonding.

  • One for me and one for you: There is enough for all. There is enough for all only if we take what is just enough for us.  When we go to the supermarket with children, we can make it a point to buy only what’s enough for our family and if there seems to be little of any item, to make sure we leave behind for the next family that might also need it. When children experience that trust we have in sharing, that just as we lookout for another’s welfare, others will look out for us,  they  experience a greater truth that the world will support them.

  • Be the missing link:  In times such as these, all of us have a responsibility towards our health and that of others. Sometimes plans and events may need to be canceled, getting together with loved ones may not be in their best interest, and if it’s for the greater wellness, it will have to be done. We owe it to everyone that we don’t aid in spreading this virus. Not everyone may have a strong body to fight it, or money to get admitted in a hospital if they catch it.  Also, our health care systems are not equipped to handle large numbers of our population falling ill at the same time.  With all this awareness, our actions are key. Our attitude and conduct right now will go a long way in building our children’s character.

During these times, our conversations, inclusiveness, and empathy towards the change is going to go down and form deep neural pathways in our children’s brains. When they can see us take charge, act responsibly and adapt positively, they will learn to do the same.  It will forever be embedded in their DNA. As adults, they will respond to crisis and change in the way they have lived as children. Children learn what they live. How do we choose to live?   

Author: Mrinalini Ponappa Banerjea is a certified Parent Educator with Parenting Matters, an organization that promotes parents to build deeper connection within families.