The last year has been tough, with many things beyond our control, but one thing we can control is our response, writes Yashmitha Padayachee.
Hard, difficult, upsetting, traumatic, distressing, sad, troubling, disturbing, tough, trying, challenging – words that have been ringing in our ears the past year. Yes, an entire year has gone by, and novel and unprecedented times are now normal and commonplace.
Sanitiser dispensers and masks are just part of the décor or outfit. Covid-19 brought with it not only a shift in health awareness but financial, emotional and even spiritual re-calibration. Keeping our families and young kids motivated and positive became an arduous task, as most adults were battling to cope with responsibilities and expectations.
By now, we should hopefully have accepted the ‘new norm’ and begun to construct our lives around it.
Happiness is a mood, positivity is a mind-set
A good positive mind-set takes practice and must be worked on constantly. Here are a few simple ideas to keep the family in a good headspace.
- Start each day with a grateful heart – All the latest forums on positive parenting and coping with the current situation, or any overwhelming situation, suggest that taking stock is the best place to start. Cultivate an environment of gratitude in your home and in your child. If you pray before meals, include a quick thanksgiving sort of roundabout. Alternatively, you can make it part of the bedtime routine, or the drive home from school. Getting your children to look at their lives and be grateful for all things is a definite way to inject positivity into your lives.
- Life must be lived as play – It was Plato who said that, and I think he knew what he was talking about. We sometimes over-complicate our lives and have unnecessarily high expectations of our children and ourselves. Remember to take a little time off to play. Just play. Depending on your child’s age group, there are endless possibilities for playtime. TOP TIP – If the weather is good, take it outdoors; just remember your masks if you’re going to be in a public area.
- Dance like nobody is watching – Be silly with your children; let them see you having fun and letting loose, footloose. You can call it exercise if you like – either way, the endorphins are going to be released and everyone is going to feel good.
- After the battles comes the rewards – Who doesn’t love a good rewards/loyalty programme! Many kids may have reverted to some habit that isn’t part of the usual behaviour – maybe carrying around a blanky or needing to sleep in mom’s bed. Whatever the case may be, if it isn’t a harmful to the child’s development, then allowing the comfort for a while should be okay. Eventually, though, you may want your bed back, so a reward chart for positive, brave behaviour could be the ticket. It could be an ice-cream after school, if he or she didn’t cry at school for the week. Bonus, you get an ice-cream too. TOP TIP – Try to stay away from too many materialistic or financially expensive treats/outings. You want to foster a more holistic wellness that isn’t based on the availability of a particular resource.
- Master the art of listening – We are often told to talk to our children, but more importantly, we need to listen to them. We need to really hear what they are saying. Conversations that require or prompt only a yes or no answer do not really offer much insight into how they are feeling or coping. As with adults, when children feel heard and understood, it brings about a sense of security and contentment.
It is okay to not be okay
No one, not children and definitely not adults, can be happy all the time. You must understand and accept that there are going to be days when it does get too heavy to manage. On that day, you are going to have cereal for supper, you are going to leave the dishes for the next day and the kids are not going to brush their teeth before bed. Moreover, that is okay.
Let your children know that it is okay to not be okay. It is okay to take some time out to feel the gravity of any situation. We do not want to raise a generation of children who believe that any form of emotion other than happiness is a sign of weakness.
Allow them to feel sad, and maybe even dissect that sadness, put a name to it, identify it and find some magic potion to counteract it. Maybe an early night or a family movie might do the trick.
At the end of the day, parents, remember that you too are human and surviving a most overwhelming event that will go down in history. Take time for yourself. You know the adage of pouring from an empty cup; you know the analogy of putting on your oxygen mask first. Take heed.
Put your feet up, watch an episode of your favourite mini-series, or catch up on some reading, and while you’re at it, have a cup of positive-tea.