Global cri­sis is a time to keep calm

Par­ents need to be a rock for their chil­dren in the face of global coronaviru­s pan­demic

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - CRAIG KIELBURGER

Voices rise in har­mony, res­onat­ing like a choir in a cathe­dral through de­serted streets.

The video of quar­an­tined Ital­ians in Si­enna singing to­gether from their bal­cony win­dows went vi­ral, spark­ing sim­i­lar per­for­mances in Rome and else­where across Italy, as well as in other coun­tries.

This is so much more than just a heart­warm­ing mo­ment in a dark time.

It’s a les­son in re­siliency and how to help our chil­dren learn to cope with cri­sis.

“Most young kids will re­mem­ber how their fam­ily home felt dur­ing the coronaviru­s panic more than any­thing spe­cific about the virus,” New York­based clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist

Dr. Re­becca Kennedy says in a re­cent ar­ti­cle.

Much has been writ­ten about how to ex­plain coronaviru­s to kids.

There’s even advice about how to help chil­dren cope with the anx­i­ety. Just like adults, their lives have been ut­terly dis­rupted. That stress is com­pounded by the worry they can sense in adults around them.

How we par­ents be­have is not just about tar­geted con­ver­sa­tions or lessons.

Our chil­dren are watch­ing ev­ery­thing we do — in close quar­ters and in a time of great un­cer­tainty.

How we in­ter­act with oth­ers, how we re­act to news and our gen­eral be­hav­iour as we man­age our own anx­i­ety, is on dis­play. So here’s a gen­tle re­minder for par­ents (me in­cluded) as we all try to hold it to­gether.

Please, don’t make ev­ery house­hold con­ver­sa­tion about coronaviru­s. Your (hope­fully re­strained) news con­sump­tion can in­crease anx­i­ety. How you re­spond to these re­ports is also im­por­tant.

Try not to mut­ter frus­tra­tions or gasp at ev­ery break­ing story. Sti­fle your anger at cer­tain politi­cians on­screen. Lit­tle ones start to ques­tion their own safety very quickly when they wit­ness stress.

Have an age-ap­pro­pri­ate dis­cus­sion about the pos­i­tive steps world lead­ers are tak­ing, and the na­ture of ex­per­tise and advice.

Teach your kids about the im­por­tance of community. If you are able, join the “care­mon­ger­ing” trend as a fam­ily. The on­line vol­un­teer group divvies up small chores to help vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple, and will pair you with some­one who needs its ser­vices. By con­trast, think about what your kids will in­ter­nal­ize when they see you fight­ing over the last pack­age of toi­let pa­per in the store.

The fol­low­ing tips can help im­part re­siliency, too.

If you’re work­ing from home, take breaks and do sim­ple mind­ful­ness ex­er­cises with your lit­tle ones.

Make these prac­tices a habit, and they will be­come part of your child’s life­long tool kit for deal­ing with fu­ture ex­ams and job stresses. All the tips will tell you to main­tain a rou­tine in your house.

Make time for fun. Yes, we’re sched­ul­ing fun now for the time be­ing.

Watch a com­edy or play Youtube karaoke. Give ev­ery child the chance to pick an ac­tiv­ity for fun time. You can still give them happy fam­ily mem­o­ries, even in a cri­sis.

Twenty years from now, Ital­ians from Si­enna will re­mem­ber that, in a time of fear, their par­ents stuck their heads out of win­dows and sang with the neigh­bours.

What will you give your chil­dren to re­mem­ber?

Craig Kielburger is co-founder of the WE Move­ment, which in­cludes WE Char­ity, ME to WE So­cial En­ter­prise and WE Day.

AL­BERTO LINGRIA/REUTERS

Ital­ians have been tak­ing to their bal­conies to share songs, set­ting a lovely, calm­ing tone for both chil­dren and adults amid the novel coronaviru­s out­break.

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