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Nalini Joseph: Keeping your child on even keel during coronavirus

By Nalini Joseph

Everyone’s talking about mental health these days.

Most of us have good food to eat, a warm bed to sleep in and some form of school for our children to attend. Some of us may even have birthday and anniversary celebrations and outdoor activities planned for sunny Saturdays. So why is there so much talk about the state of our mental health here in America?

Some of the 2020 buzzwords are: new normal, depression, isolation, quarantine, protocols, anxiety, fear, virtual, the 3 Ws and restrictions.  We have been spitting these words out into the universe since March. It almost feels good to say some of these phrases like “safety is priority” and “extenuating circumstances beyond our control.” However, we easily can forget how much of an impact our actions and words have on our children.

We forget that when we are worried about our financial situation, our health, our family, the news and the rising case numbers, that all these messages, both spoken and unspoken, have a tremendous impact on our children. It’s necessary to continually evaluate what should and should not be spoken out loud when you are interacting with your child. Contradictions can be confusing. Children notice when parents emphasize mask wearing but do not impose the rule on themselves.    

A psychologist by the name of Maslow uses a pyramid to describe an individual’s advancement from basic functioning all the way up to advanced functioning.  Maslow’s hierarchy shows safety at the base of the pyramid — safety is essential for higher functioning. Without emotional and physical safety, children cannot advance into the higher levels of the pyramid: love and a sense of belonging, healthy self-esteem and, at the top of the pyramid, self-actualization.

In order for children to feel safe, parents need to exude a sense of safety and control. Jan Marine, a licensed clinical social worker from Mooresville, reminds me that parents have to do a juggling act. While maintaining parental control, it’s okay for an adult to show tears, to express feelings of worry or discontent. It’s what the parent does with these feelings that is paramount.

Even if the world seems to be spinning out of control in so many respects besides the pandemic, adults must be planned, thoughtful and prayerful in their actions and words. Tell your children “I’m not sure how this is going to work out, but it’s going to be okay. It’s my job to make things as okay as possible for you.”

Just in the last month, many people across the globe have experienced weather related crises with flooding, wildfires and landslides. We hear about the sickness and hospitalizations of more and more people we know and love. We are engrossed in the daily deluge of news about our political climate and we prepare for possible danger in our neighborhoods and cities. However, we must be confident in our faith, our families and our support systems. This undergirding faith brings about reassurance and peace. Reassurance from parents is essential.  In order for this reassurance to be genuine, parents themselves need to be calm and collected in their outward and inward behavior.

Bright, talented children ought to be engrossed in studying and continued learning — always, even during a pandemic. Hopefully by now, each household has figured out a new way of implementing a schooling system in their home.

As an overstretched and exhausted parent trying to navigate this new world, you may be averse to doing more “school” on evenings and weekends. As we approach the winter indoor season, my suggestion is that you take this time of indoor restriction to spend more time with your child doing the things that make them a great child — read with them, imagine and dream with them, study life, nature and subjects of interest with them.  You won’t get this time back.  You will remember these days of eating at home more, spending more time together and going to small yet intimate weddings and funerals.

Your child will feel invigorated and energized by reading and learning if you model an excitement for these daily habits.

Joseph is a resident of Salisbury. She is the proud mother of 10-year honor-roll student, Rohan Joseph, who serves his community as president of COVID Busters. Email her at nalinijones1@hotmail.com.   

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