Parental Guidance: What is the pandemic teaching your kids?
Despite all the gloom, despair, grief, frustration and anger all around us, there is a small sliver of hope. This pandemic is actually teaching our children some very vital life skills.
By Geetika Sasan Bhandari
Who ever thought that one day we would yearn for the mundane? Crave to have a regular routine, to pack tiffins for our kids, to go to the gym, to catch up with a friend for coffee, to be at the bus-stop for school pick-up, to drive kids to activities, matches, birthday parties. To just step out to buy groceries and run a few errands along the way. As of now, all we can do is just hope and pray for some semblance of normalcy, for lives not to be lost gasping for air, and for everyone to have access to healthcare should they need it. When will that happen? Nobody can predict. In fact, the only thing that’s certain for now is that stress, fear, anxiety, worry, and uncertainty are going to remain our steadfast companions for a while.
But, I do not want to stress on what you already know. What I do want to say is that despite all the gloom, despair, grief, frustration and anger all around us, there is a small sliver of hope. That this pandemic is actually teaching our children some very vital life skills. That when it’s all behind us, they would have emerged wiser, kinder, more responsible, more caring. And as psychiatrist Carl Jung said, “Children are educated by what the grown-up is and not by his talk.” So remember, your kids are imbibing what you’re modelling.
How you respond to any adversity or challenge and emerge from it is what resilience is and I doubt there is any family which hasn’t faced some kind of challenge in these months. It may have been financial, job stress, worry about elderly parents coping alone, anxiety about children’s exams or a school year spent in lockdown, or worse, getting the virus and/or looking after someone who has. It may even have been about managing a hospital bed for a friend or an oxygen cylinder for a relative. Through all of this, have you modelled composure when you could, been calm under stress and managed to be resourceful and find solutions? If you have, and all of us have probably faced one of the above situations, your kids are going to learn that everyone faces some sort of challenge but being able to figure a way out is a key life skill.
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Empathy, Compassion and Kindness
If you’ve been talking to your children or as a family about the migrant crisis last year, the fact that so many people lost jobs and were rendered homeless and if you’ve been pointing out stories to them of people who have gone over and beyond to help others, then your children are imbibing all three values. And if you’ve stepped up to donate, paid your staff despite the lockdown, distributed rations or meals to the needy, helped a neighbour’s family who had Covid, and offered prayers for complete strangers, then without realising you have shown your children what it’s like to be in another person’s shoes (empathy), what small acts of kindness can mean especially in a crisis and that you needn’t know the person in order to display compassion.
Did you adhere to lockdown norms, stay masked, and behaved like responsible citizens by maintaining a distance? If you did, then you’ve just modelled what it means to be a responsible citizen of society. Also, with what is going on it is impossible that any house is bereft of conversations involving politics and politicians, and you must explain to your children that as adults they also have a very important responsibility as engaged citizens to understand the ideologies and agendas of the party or candidate they vote for, and most importantly they must exercise their right to vote. After all, we only get the government we choose.
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If you and your spouse have been jointly handling the chores at home and have also involved your children by getting them to chip in, then they are getting the message that a smoothly functioning house is everyone’s responsibility and not just the mother’s. I wrote this on Mother’s Day because this is a very important message that every house must be sending out to their children from an early age to prevent the very exhausting ‘Super Mom’ syndrome. Secondly, if you’ve allowed your kids to be holed up in their rooms and catered to their every whim, tiring yourself physically and mentally in the process, then you have lost a golden chance to teach them not only equality but also independence. Many children I know have not only helped in making beds, folding clothes, dusting, laying the table, and cooking but also become able helpers in enterprises like home kitchens.
Health is Always a Priority
Just like Rome, immunity wasn’t built in a day, and no amount of popping supplements is going to undo years of neglect. If you had good exercise and food habits, undoubtedly your immunity would be good and today that can literally be a lifesaver. Children are also seeing that those who believe in maintaining a balance – adequate time for exercise, rest, relaxation, meditation – have managed to keep their heads above water and this is surely going to be a learning for them to inculcate in their own lives. Kids have also learnt that mental health is as important as physical health, and that it’s okay to be vulnerable, to feel anxious, to ask for help, and most importantly not to judge.
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I could go on and on. Any crisis is all things horrible, but it is also a huge teacher, and presents us with an opportunity to teach our children so many vital values and skills that will carry them through life. Undoubtedly, the pandemic will leave a trail of death and destruction, but if it can make our future adults a tad kinder, more engaged and responsible, more independent, and definitely more empathetic, then that would possibly be the only silver lining in this very dark cloud.
(The writer is former Editor of Child, and has recently launched a parenting platform called Let’s Raise Good Kids. She has two kids)
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