As schools begin to discuss the parameters and possibilities of safely reopening in the Fall, one question burns on the mind of every parent, “What has or will this experience do to my child psychologically?”
It’s true that the extreme measures that have been taken and the dire circumstances of COVID-19 have left an impression of which we have yet to see the full effects. Depending on children’s ages, their experience ranges from very little awareness to total and complete cognitive dissonance of what they thought their senior year, for instance, would look like.
The way families cope with this new environment has become a very personalized choice. Parents will have to weigh options and face big decisions ahead about how to proceed safely and in a manner that is right for their own family, while balancing precautions we must all take for public health. It is tempting to focus on the negative impact of these circumstances and the natural fears about what implications this may cause later.
But, as a parent, I am challenging myself to focus on the positive impact this situation has had on our family and the skills I hope for my children, specifically, to take away from the coronavirus pandemic of 2020.
1. Germ Awareness
Let’s face it. No one was washing hands as much as they are now in 2020. We have now become acutely aware of the many, small, automatic ways in which we transmit germs.
My children and I have had conversations about how germs are transmitted and how different populations of people are more or less susceptible to germs. These are good lessons for general health. Imagine how much better our regular flu seasons may have gone, if we had this type of awareness.
It’s true we do not want to tip over into becoming fearful of germs, but I think as a society our hygienic awareness for moving from environment to environment has dramatically improved overall.
My children are very young, so they have not formed really solid expectations for what they may be missing the rest of this school year. But they are aware enough to notice a total 180 shift in their routine and social interactions with others. However, instead of focusing on the negative impact of these changes, I am helping my children process problem solving and finding new ways to adapt under this circumstance. Life is simply not always going to adhere to our expectations, anyway, so developing the ability to adapt positively is truly a skill that we all must master at some point. We are finding the positive and we are being creative in our approach to just about everything. Though uncomfortable at first, we have found great joy in finding new ways to accomplish things we want to and need to, while still staying safe and in compliance.
My boys always loved going to the ball field and the gym for basketball, but something tells me when they get to do these things again, they will love it even more. I know I will.
When something is constantly available to us, it is natural to begin to take it for granted. We learn to expect that it will always be there, and by no fault we simply rely on that fact. But the truth is, we are not guaranteed or entitled to anything in this life. The systems that work for us are dependent on other people being healthy and in a position to do their job. This makes it all the more important for us to consider ways we can help each other and be good stewards of the resources we are afforded.
4. Preparation for Future Pandemics
I hope this is the only pandemic my children will have to face, but the world is a dangerous place, and I know the reality is that it is likely at some point they will have to face this again or some other type of worldwide stressor such as war.
Right now, our children are observing how all of the adults in their lives respond to this situation. They are picking up on emotions, vocabulary, and experience that will inform any future repeat of a situation similar to this one. As parents, we must ask ourselves, how do we want them to respond? With fear? Preparation? Blame? Hostility? Innovation? Problem solving? Collaboration? Adaptability? Whether you consciously talk to your children about this or not, you can be sure they are picking up on your attitude and approach every step of the way.
5. There Is a Way Forward
In situations such as these, the way forward is not always clear-cut or easily agreed upon. But I think it’s important to reinforce for our children that move forward, we must. We have to deal with the reality of our circumstances, and we cannot waste time lamenting about the past or playing the blame game. We must think critically, with innovation and positive, optimistic attitude in order to lay a firm foundation that our children will be able to walk right out of this pandemic upon.
We can be sure that the generations that follow will have their own battles to face and their own problems to conquer. I hope for my children to look back at this time and see collaboration, creativity, and a sense of community that moved us forward, despite the fear or uncertainty that existed during COVID-19.