by Chantal Bufe
Carefree. How much are we all looking forward to living this word? To a time with fewer restrictions and more freedom, with fewer worries and more confidence.
As we are waiting for the world to open up, many are concerned for our children. How is this pandemic impacting them right now? How is this pandemic affecting their mental health, influencing their behavior, and shaping their future?
We will never fully understand the emotional and behavioral consequences on children and teens, but we will receive a glimpse from studies such as the Baltimore study.
The question is whether these findings will provide additional parental tools should this pandemic last longer (or should another crisis follow)?
For now, all parents can do is rely on their children's words, their behavioral cues, and our parental instincts to determine their emotional state. This proves tricky, especially during moments when we can't tell whether the child's irritability/ nervousness/ lack of concentration / (fill in the blank) is 'normal' or their reaction to a feeling stems from the effects of this pandemic has on them.
And the problem is, we can't even ask the people around us, like other parents. Hey, do you think I am doing ok as a parent? Are our kids on the right path? How are your kids doing?
We used to get this reassurance daily in personal interactions: at drop-off, pick-up during the day, or parent evenings. These face-to-face exchanges - even if they lasted only a couple of minutes - were our sounding board, providing us with a good sense of how our children were doing collectively, what problems they were all facing and what we as parents could do about it. Together and inside our home.
While parents can still connect digitally, that collective sense of parenting - keeping an eye out for each other and each other's kids - has become so much more difficult. It is much harder to tell how another person is doing from a distance. And it is much harder to describe how your child is doing while you live within that distance.
There is so much truth to the African proverb that it takes a village to raise a kid, not because it implies that a child is too much work for a parent to handle alone, but because it correctly points out that a child needs interaction with many different people, who provide various inputs, to grow into a well-rounded adult.
And there are, of course, still actual people who can help, like doctors or child psychologists. Currently, many pediatricians also offer mental health assessments (telemedical or in-person) via conversations with the children to ensure their emotional wellbeing.
Make use of this if you think your child would benefit. Not only will it reassure you that you are doing the best you can, but knowing that your child will also have another person to talk to and confide in - another member within their 'community' who will watch out for them and guide them - is priceless.
Especially since our children are not only dealing with a pandemic, but with additional issues that occupy their minds and impact their behavior, like school and friendships.
In our case, puberty has recently joined us at the dinner table—an interesting companion. But that's a whole other crisis altogether.
(Photo: Kelly Sikkema/ Unsplash)