August 12, 2020

So Much Change! Helping parents and children cope with the pace of change

The Coronavirus pandemic has brought about circumstances in our lives that we could never have imagined. Here, Diana Kay explores the impact of this change on parents and children, as well as recommending some strategies or considerations for those supporting children in the midst of it all.

This article is written by Diana Kay, a Senior Consultant in the Parenting and Early Years Program at the Australian Childhood Foundation.

 

We are living in extraordinary times! The world as we know it has become topsy-turvy in almost every possible way!

The Olympics have been postponed, Wimbledon has been cancelled, international and domestic travel has ground to a halt and the borders have been closed between states in Australia for the first time in one hundred years.

There has been an enormous amount of change, in our everyday lives and within our communities, in a very short time. The Coronavirus pandemic has brought about circumstances in our lives that we could never have imagined.

Many of our workplaces have closed either permanently or temporarily, huge numbers of jobs have been lost or hours significantly reduced. Working from home and zoom meetings are a new norm. Schools have closed, reopened and some are now closed again, and parents are required to support children’s learning at home. Everyone is being urged to stay at home. Social distancing means restricted outings and no playdates. In Victoria, lockdown is the new norm!

These pandemic related changes have been many, have been unexpected and have come quite quickly.

We all respond differently to change. Some of us feel anxious, worried or stressed. For others, there might be an initial sense of excitement and adrenalin that things will be different and interesting. Some of us experience a mix of these feelings. We are all likely to feel a bit wobbly at different times.

Regardless of how we initially feel about the changes confronting us due to the pandemic, the changing circumstances we face are likely to be accompanied with a sense of challenge, destabilisation or disorientation and sometimes stress or trauma.

Change always involves letting go of how things have been. Change brings with it a sense of unfamiliarity and uncertainty.

Two ways for parents and children to explore and build understanding and tolerance to change:

  • Fold your arms across your chest in the usual way and then try swapping and folding them in the opposite way! What was that like? What does this tell us about change?
  • If you live with others, try changing where you each sit at the meal table – if you have favourite/set spots or perhaps the lounge chairs you sit in to watch TV. What was that like? Did it feel strange or fun?

How do you help your child adjust and cope with the current changes as well as feel safe and build resilience?

Here are some ideas for managing change in your family.  They are organised into three main areas, all equally important: Looking after yourself, Tuning into your children, and Investing in connection.

Image of a chart describing ideas and considerations for managaing change with children.

Children look to adults to make sense of the world around them. They notice when we are concerned or worried, and so they can feel worried too. The best thing we can tell children is the truth, in a measured manner tailored to their developmental stage and without catastrophising (Our CEO, Dr Joe Tucci has also written about this here). It can be a dance at times, finding the right amount of information, but we do know that too much information and too many distressing images can be overwhelming and distressing for all people, and for children can produce unnecessary fear and uncertainty. If your children are of an age where they watch the news, be ready to dialogue with them about what they have seen and to help them translate what they have heard into a meaning you can hold together.

If you are looking for ideas for how you might connect and play together, the Foundation has also produced a large number of free resources for use during Coronavirus. You can find these on our website here. Three that I recommend are:

  • A-Z of Activities at Home with the Family
  • At Home Together with the four M’s
  • Many ways to share a Hug

Finally, in these ever-changing times, tuning into our children can help us ensure that we can meet both their physical needs and their emotional needs. They need us to be their lighthouse, to guide and support them. So be flexible, be creative and keep having fun together!