Doing my nightly scroll on Facebook, a post popped up from a friend who had taken his little girl on a drive. She was ecstatic — smiling from ear to ear and happily sitting in the background of the photo he’d posted.
But once she realised they weren’t headed anywhere in particular, and that the drive was just to get out of self-isolation for at least a few minutes, she was devastated. He was naturally heartbroken, and the result of not knowing how to explain to a toddler that the world has changed is a huge burden for a parent.
The world is changing for kids, too
Friends all around me are juggling the responsibilities of working from home and entertaining their children, now that school is out (inevitably).
In Australia. the announcement came this morning that Term 2 of school will be conducted remotely online — a huge change for both kids and parents alike. In fact, this is going to change everything a child knows about the world.
To date, they haven’t understood what’s going on with social distancing and the COVID-19 pandemic; why their holidays were brought forward or why they’re not allowed to go to the park across the road. Answers like “People are sick” or “We are being safe” are some that I’ve heard float around. But they still won’t get that.
As children, they’re filled with curiosity, and they do notice what’s going on around them. They thrive on routine and structure, and as parents (not me, obviously), we’re not able to give them that right now.
“Children see magic because they look for it.” — Christopher Moore
We don’t know what’s going on ourselves and the uncertainty of what’s to come is plaguing our ability to give the little ones some clarity.
So what can we do instead? We can give them hope.
Show them the world is still wonderful
They’re not allowed to see their friends right now. They can’t go to their footy games or gymnastics classes; life is a lot different.
So that means it’s time to show the children of the world that — despite everything around us no longer looking like something familiar — it’s still wonderful.
I recently wrote on the importance of hope narratives and how, as a society, we’re slowly losing grasp of these. I encourage you — or plead, rather — to fill your children with the hope that things will look a little different from the usual, but it’s still a good thing.
Instead of them feeling confused or bored, show them that this is a time they can do new things. FaceTime with their friends; show them how to play board games that aren’t on a screen; read to them; get them hands-on with some crafts. This is the time to show them hope comes in other forms and it’s your job to lead by example.
If you’ve lost your own hope narrative and don’t know how to get it back, remember that we’re all in the same boat. We’ve lost the familial part of life that we crave but someday, that will come back and we’ll thank ourselves for all the effort we put in, in the first place.
I encourage you to read Everything is F*cked by Mark Manson. It’s cynical, but it will give you perspective on how to have hope in a time that feels like it’s impossible to summon it.
We’re all trying to make ends meet right now, in all aspects of the term. Keep your head high up above the water and show your children how to swim, too.
Remember that while you may understand why we’re stuck inside and working in ways we never used to, they do not. Be the light and clarity they need to get through this as well.
You’re doing it tough, sure, but they’re doing it tougher because this is their childhood. This forms their growth and impending adulthood. This all matters to them so make it matter for all the good possible reasons.
You do have control over that.