COVID-19 has resulted in pending physical lockdown, better known as social distancing. As a public health response, we are all being asked to stay away from one another in groups so we may level off the potential deadly health threat to our communities. Few are immune from this condition, and we do not know how many are infected and what treatment will work. Schools, universities, workplaces, and government, are shut down. The economic markets are in a downward free fall. What is the insidious, subtle impact on our children? How do they experience a sense of personal confidence in the midst of widespread fear, panic and anxiety?
Since I was a child myself, I have watched other children, just like me, watch closely the adults in their lives. I noticed that what was spoken was less important, than what we felt or hoped for. Am I in trouble? Am I bad? Does she love me? Will he spend time with me? Are they going to be kind? What are we going to do together to have fun? Is it my fault?
As I grew into a professional career serving children and youth, I learned about attachment and developmental demands: the child’s need for safety and stability, for physical and emotional affection, for consistency and socialization, all to be provided by caring, unconditionally loving parents or caregivers. Theories promoted a belief that when sufficient, these considerations ensure that children acquire a confident self-concept, and self-assurance, reflecting trust in their own abilities, qualities, and decision-making.
As an adolescent specialist, I discovered that during this transitional period, puberty provokes additional youthful questions, Who am I? What do I believe in? What will I become? The role of the adult shifts to being a dramatic example for how the parent appropriately meets their own needs. The youth watches closely and evaluates.
The pandemic represents an extraordinary opportunity to resist allowing fear to rule and dominate our lives, while reminding our children of other storms that have passed. This is a time to meditate, pray, sing, or find some other positive way to cope with crisis. This is a singular occasion for being still, seeking peace, expressing hope, and emphasizing a shared sense of family as well as local, national, and international community. As adults balance their urgent, and practical responsibilities to address an overwhelming assault on normalcy and wellbeing with compassion, self-discipline, and gratitude, we must continue to model self- confidence. During this stunning period of uncertainty and risk, indeed a national emergency, we must be mindful of who is watching us, and how confident are the children feeling about getting through an essential lockdown.