Supporting Your Child During the Pandemic
By Shama Yunus-Joynt BA, CPHR, SHRM-SCP
It is no surprise that the incidence of mental health in Canada has increased due to the pandemic. Feelings of powerlessness, uncertainty, financial strains and a host of physical and emotional concerns are layered on top of lives that were already full of daily stressors prior to the pandemic. What a lot of people may not realize is that a large part of what they are feeling is grief. We have lost, at least temporarily, our normal way of life, including the social aspects of life that we experienced simply by going about our days. We may not associate the word grief with what we are feeling right now, but wherever there is loss, there is grief.
What about our kids? Are they grieving too? You bet they are. I have heard so many stories of missed birthday parties and missed play dates, missing sports and missing just plain hanging out the way kids do. All of this is made worse for kids because this is the time in their lives when their peer group is everything. As powerless as you might feel, your kids are likely feeling this twice as much. Your kids take their cues from you when it comes to their environment; they may not express it as such but they can tell when things are not right. Add to this that as a parent, you feel it is your job to fix things when they go wrong for your children. Now let’s add one more thing – grief can not be ‘fixed’. It is a state of sadness that is lived through and processed, and hopefully the grieving person can come out of it with some new meaning that helps them to return to a happier state of being. How can we support our kids’ grief and ultimately, support their mental health?
For anyone that has experienced grief, you know that the last thing you need is to be told “You’ll be fine”. What you need is to be told that it’s ok to feel bad about what you have lost; you need to be supported where you are at, without being told to “move on” or “get over it”. Although grief is painful and sometimes people can get really mired into it, for the most part we humans are incredibly resilient. We process through and find ways to cope, and we find new meanings to carry forward with us. The same is true for our children. They do not have the life experience to express their feelings as feelings of grief; they know that they feel bad and will do many kinds of things to cope.
As a parent, the best thing you can do is to help them express what they’re feeling from their perspective. They recognize missing someone, frustration, powerlessness … you can normalize this by telling them you are feeling these things too during this pandemic. You can figure out ways to make it better together, but it starts with acknowledging their feelings without diminishing or dismissing them. For a child, or anyone struggling with mental wellness for that matter, knowing that they are heard, understood and accepted is the foundation on which their recovery and continued well-being is based. Now, more than ever, we need to give this to each other!
About the Author
Shama Yunus-Joynt is an experienced Human Resources professional specializing in culture and engagement. She has a background in coaching and mental health which she combines in a very unique way towards helping companies define and execute an extraordinary people strategy. Connect with Shama on LinkedIn to learn more about her.
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