Marcy is a school counselor at an alternative school in Illinois and a part-time bartender who loves writing in her spare time.
We only get one childhood, and it should be filled with fun times that create wonderful memories. I know I was blessed growing up. Was my childhood perfect? Of course not, but both my brother and I were fortunate enough to come from a household of two parents who loved us, worked hard to provided for us, and did their best to raise us. I'll say it again. I was blessed.
The children I work with at the alternative school are some of the sweetest, funniest kids I have ever met. Yet, I know they are growing up in a different time, and in most cases, a less than blessed situation. Still, they are kids, and they only get one childhood.
As a school counselor, I worry about the mental health of all of the children who are missing the positive memories, structure, and socialization school provides. In 30 years, what will our children remember about this time? Ideally, we want them to remember how hard the adults in their lives tried to create a safe and loving environment. I know times are hard, and we are all struggling. Parents are probably wondering: how can I give my children encouragement and support when I need it, too? In these challenging times, there are a few things we can do to make sure our children's memories are more positive than negative.
There Are No Perfect Parents
Believe me, I made my fair share of parenting mistakes, all of which my daughters remind me of frequently. But seriously, I know some of the choices I made raising my girls would not win any Mother-of-the-Year awards. So, please don't think I'm claiming to be a parenting expert with all of the answers.
First off, what we need to realize is our children intuitively sense our emotions. If we are scared or worried, they know it. This connection of emotions can then cause them excessive worry and fear. Remember, a child sees their parents as the ones in charge. The ones with the answers. The ones who provide and take care of them. If this image changes negatively, the child will feel insecure and fearsome of what is happening to cause these changes.
So, the first thing we can do to help our children is to have control of our emotions. It's okay to be sad or to be worried, but you should discuss these feelings with your children in a way they can understand. Opening up the communication is a way to let children know things might be different, but you can get through them together. Staying positive will help everyone. But how can we be positive when we are so worried and stressed out? This is where we might have to admit we need some help.
Lean On Your People
Asking for help is hard for most people. For some reason, we see it as admitting defeat. We are in the middle of a pandemic. This is no time to hang onto our heroic image of ourselves. Ask for help if you need it.
For some people, help might be asking a family member or neighbor for a few necessary supplies. For others, the need is more significant. In every case, your requests will most likely be full-filled. I have found that during this challenging time, most people who are able, want to help in any way they can. So, if a family member or neighbor cannot provide, reach out to your church. Your pastor can utilize a vast avenue of resources for you, and he or she can also keep your anonymity. Remember, we are all in this together.
Help can also come in the way of emotional support. If you are having trouble with your emotions, talk to someone you trust. It can be your pastor, a friend, a family member, or even a counselor. Getting the help you need will ensure that you can better help and care for your children.
Routines & Structure
We all know it, when our children get out of their routine, all hell breaks loose. Well, the pandemic of 2020 just imploded our family routines. A lot of the stress and anger parents are feeling is because the structure in their household has toppled like a house of cards. Now that it has fallen, you are trying and trying to regain that structure, but you can't. Let's face it, that structure is not coming back until everyone is back to work and back to school. So, we are left to create a new structure.
As a family, sit down and discuss your feelings, problems, and other issues to get a handle on what everyone needs to get back on track. Making your kids involved in this process gives them ownership and responsibility. Have them tell you what is stressing them out or making them sad. Then work to solve the problem together. Put an activity in their routine that helps eliminate and then also prevent the problem from occurring again.
Talk together to strike a balance. This is a negotiation. Let them have their way on a few small items so that you can crack down on the big ones.
Make sure your children are getting enough sleep and a good balance of activities. I know it is tempting to let them watch tv and be on their devices all day, but these are destructive behaviors when done in excess. When you are planning your child's routine, ask them to help you set a reasonable bedtime and wake-up time. Also, have them make a list of things they like to do, and you make a list of things you want them to do. Talk together to strike a balance. This is a negotiation. Let them have their way on a few small items so that you can crack down on the big ones.
Finally, make sure you are setting a good example for your children with your routine. Remember, they are watching you. You will feel better and be more productive if you include a routine for yourself. The faster you can get your family back on track, the better off everyone will be
We Are In This Together, Even The Children
These are difficult times, for sure. I worry household stress, the potential lack of structure, and the lost school time are negatively affecting our children. These are significant changes to a child's normal. These changes also make them susceptible to negative experiences that will significantly alter their childhood memories in the future. We cannot shelter our children from all bad experiences, but we can do our best to make sure we do more good than harm. In 30 years, we want our children to remember the pandemic of 2020 as a time we did our best, despite the challenges. Remember, we are all in this together, even the children.
© 2020 Marcy Bialeschki
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on May 03, 2020:
"Bummer for those guys". That is my 10 year old's attitude now. He seems to see it as fun but gets that some suffer either by choice or circumstance. We don't do bummer at home.
Marcy Bialeschki (author) from Cerro Gordo, IL on May 01, 2020:
What will be interesting is how different the world will be by then. They will probably look back and wonder how they survived in such primitive times.
Liz Westwood from UK on May 01, 2020:
In years to come, 2020 will be in the history books. The question future generations will ask is 'What did you do in the pandemic?' Families in lockdown are being forced to spend more time together at home than ever before. Some are coming up with creative solutions, others are struggling.
Marcy Bialeschki (author) from Cerro Gordo, IL on May 01, 2020:
Yes, this ordeal is going to be something they definitely remember. I miss my students. I hope they are all okay.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 01, 2020:
It is an interesting question. This is, to date, the defining moment of this current generation. For my generation, probably the Vietnam War. Hopefully this generation won't have to face a defining moment which is worse. :(