By Cassandra Anderson
COVID-19 has had a profound effect on us all, and there is no way we can escape or ignore this reality. Individuals, major corporations, and industries around the world – none of us have been spared. Even if we, ourselves, don’t know anyone who has contracted this virus, we know of someone who is dealing with the effects. We know someone who has lost a job, someone who has lost a friend, and even our pets must adjust to us “being at home all day.” In my own community, I see increased levels of anxiety or depression daily.
In moments of adult struggle, it is easy to focus on the adults, but our children are navigating this crisis as well. They, too, had to adjust from the structure of being in the classroom with teachers and friends to being homeschooled by parents who may also be on five conference calls each day—or who are essential employees that typically work day shifts at their local hospital and are not able to pivot to a homeschooling schedule. Our children are suffering, as well, and they need us in ways we could never have ever imagined.
Like many of us, I call my friends and loved ones more now than before the pandemic took hold. A few weeks after our schools switched to distance learning due to school closures, I called to check on one of my closest girlfriends. When she answered the phone, I could tell something was wrong. Her normal cheer and encouragement weren’t there. Instead, she sounded defeated and discouraged. When I asked what was wrong, she told me her nine-year-old granddaughter had an anxiety-riddled meltdown. Her daughter had cried nonstop and didn’t want to finish her assigned online schoolwork. The reason left me stunned and upset. It wasn’t because she did not want to do the work, but because she wanted to go to school and to see her friends and teachers again. She didn’t quite understand why she couldn’t. She didn’t understand why her usual schedule and routine had changed, and my friend felt helpless trying to explain it to her. Children need stability, and all the coronavirus and shutdowns have given them is uncertainty.
The new school year only presents more uncertainty. Many districts were planning to open at least partly in person as recently as two weeks ago. Now many of those same districts have pivoted to full-time remote learning. What looked like a disrupted but partly familiar fall has now become the opposite for parents and students. As much as it was true in the spring, it’s true now: our children are suffering. We must be there for them in ways we couldn’t have imagined just a few months ago. Trauma is difficult to bear for any adult. It’s even harder for children with research showing that COVID-19 has led to childhood trauma and has caused increased anxiety and loneliness.
So, what should we do?
Some of the best advice is offered between friends and this is what I offered my friend:
- A hug goes a long way. Physical contact is important for building strong bonds. Quarantine and social distancing have made even casual contact harder. We shouldn’t forget it matters.
- Be kind and gentle. A hard word falls harder during a time of stress and high anxiety, and an act of kindness goes even further for the same reasons.
- Be understanding and compassionate. COVID-19 has made people of all ages internalize their challenges. Empathy matters. Try your best to show it.
- Listen and share your feelings. A rock shares no warmth and no one wants to yell into an empty nothing. Let people share their humanity with you and do so in return.
I’ve learned over the years, from many years working with and mentoring youth, that compassion, love, and support can help heal wounds left by trauma.
To everyone, but to parents, in particular, be encouraged. We’re all in this together and as the old African Proverb says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” While we may not know when things will return to normal, we know we are resilient!
Cassandra Anderson currently serves as the manager of community outreach and partnerships with Enroll Indy, and she is also an adjunct instructor at Ivy Tech Community College. Previously, she served as the community engagement manager of K-12 advocacy with the United Negro College Fund and as a board member for Ignite Achievement Academy.