COVID-19: SPARE A THOUGHT FOR THE CHILDREN
There are many public media discussions about global health concerns, protective measures, mortality statistics and the economic impact of the corona virus on our lives around the globe. In this context, it is assumed that children will be told what to do and they will follow instructions without question. As you may well have found out, children have opinions and views of their own to the corona virus challenge. Children do not operate in our rational adult world framework. They will have their own responses and grudges against the pandemic that may be difficult for adults to fathom. While some good kids are obedient and respectful, they may also be good at concealing their feelings and frustrations.
The sudden jerk away from known and familiar routine has forced them to go “underground” with their feelings, fears and concerns about their future. This has to be explained at their level of understanding and accommodation. There are assumptions adults make about children when we expect them to respond in particular ways. However, even in normal situations, the reaction of children to new stimulus can be, in adult terms, surprising.
Children’s understanding and interpretation of new situations is innocent, free of experiential bias and generally inconsistent with adult perspectives of life. A friend of mine, for example, had to find words to explain to his five-year-old granddaughter why he was so “old”. A logical explanation of the passage of years was not enough to engage the mind of the little girl. She was disturbed by the fact that her grandfather just sat around all day and did not have any urge to go out and play. Psychologists tell us that childhood experiences are very powerful character informants and personality developers.
Childhood exposure also forms the root of future interpersonal engagements and social interaction. For example, now that we have asked people not to shake hands, how will we explain the sudden change of script, from a child’s point of view, when people are once again allowed to shake hands? We must be cognisant that teenage anti-social behaviour during a lockdown and following a return to school environment may have roots in this prolonged period of isolation. While specific childhood experiences may be forgotten or passed over, their impact and imprint may last a life time.
There must be some things we can do to explain the requirement to stay indoors all day. Adults also need to provide some assurance that the children have not made some terrible mistake that God is unhappy about. Perhaps what we need to do is listen to their stories, feel their hearts, respond to their concerns and just sit on the floor and experience things from their point of view. Be with them in the moment. Let’s assure them that our love and concern for them has not been taken away by the corona virus.