The Catholic News continues to examine parenting areas during the pandemic.
In this piece, psychologist Anna Maria Mora offers a perspective for parents and their children.
This is the most important question in the scheme of things as they are now. Families today exist in isolation. We say that this type of family is the best family structure. We might try to build ‘communities’ but walls and fences still go up, with everyone isolated from each other, not knowing the names of neighbours and many times preventing the children from playing with each other. We call these families ‘nuclear families’. In my opinion, the disadvantages of the ‘nuclear family’ far outweigh its advantages.
Disadvantages: Members of the nuclear family are separated from their extended family, and bonding with aunts, uncles, grandparents and cousins is non-existent. Children also have difficulty socialising and because they tend to be caught up in ‘me’ and ‘I’ because of the demand to be independent, practising empathy is difficult. Seeing the other, feeling the pain of the other and commiserating with the other is difficult.
In times of crisis, such as this pandemic, we need a sense of community. One of the opportunities which this pandemic has presented to us is the urgency of creating true community. Parents have to go out to work and there is the complaint that there is no one to supervise the children. Having a sense of community will find us approaching those retired persons, housewives, university or CAPE (Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination) students who live on our street or in the community and communicating with them our needs. Of course, there are the health regulations which need adherence. The persons who are available to work with the children in the community can take five children each, practise social distancing and sanitising and ensure that the children practise their social skills, and pay attention to the education which is being offered to them virtually. There is so much of this available.
I go into my fantasy world and imagine our Church leaders, (just as they invite parishioners to donate to the hampers for those who need) invite those members of the communities who are at home and would like to offer their services to families whose parents have to go to work and have no help to supervise the children. These members can receive training and provide the service that is so needed. Wi-Fi services can be donated to those children who are victims of the digital gap. Churches will definitely help with building community. Some of these helping homes can be responsible for only the toddlers and preschoolers, others for the 7-10 age groups, 11-13 age groups, then the14-17+ age groups.
There is a plethora of helpful online guidance for those facilitators who are chosen to take charge of these classes. These facilitators can get a stipend for working with these five children and ensuring that all health regulations are followed. Do not forget that social skills are at the foundation of any learning programmes.
Our Social Workers can also do home visits to ensure that all is in place for the children to be safe and receive the education in a stimulating and progressive environment.
Make home a home
This pandemic and all its regulations need a very high sense of discipline if citizens are to come through this successfully. The lockdown, whether full or partial is not something that our families or individuals can smoothly move into without some sense of distress. Many citizens just go home to sleep. Children are at lessons, or some extra-curricular activities after school. They go home to eat, do homework and then go to sleep. On weekends, it is more lessons, more extra curricula activities, no time to bond with family outings. Home is not a place in which they truly live.
As children we were not consciously taught coping skills. Our inner drive taught us to creep and then hold on and stand up, and begin with baby steps and a few falls and when adults smile and laugh with us, we learn what we need to do to please them. Then we grow up and striving for independence does not please them anymore. We learn to cope with this through having fun at our ‘lessons’ classes, or our extra-curricular activities and our social media relationships.
Now in this crisis, this pandemic, we are stuck inside with our parents who we really do not know and who do not know us. We are flooded with feelings that interfere with the coping skills we developed to protect us. Feeling sad, afraid (hearing about all the havoc that this virus is bringing upon us), agitated, lost, angry, lonely, bored, caged, confused, controlled, discouraged, to name a few.
These feelings invade us and interfere with our normal day-to-day activities. We now have no control. We struggle with ourselves and begin to think that we are losing control. Meeting our friends to go to the mall or cinema on weekends is out, birthday parties, field trips and all the things that make us happy are not possible and we cannot understand what is happening. Any one or several of the feelings noted above can overcome us and we have trouble focusing on the online classes, lack motivation, and we lose interest in socialising.