Have a Question? Need Parenting Advice? Ask Michael Hawton

A lot of people are experiencing an incredibly troubling time now, particularly in Victoria – more than ever before in their lives. Clearly life has changed, sadness and distress are now major emotions being experienced by families and children. It’s not just that people’s livelihoods are being affected but also their dreams are under threat.

It is important to remember that kids rely on us to keep things calm and to keep things in perspective. When you are reflecting on the effects of the pandemic with your children try and stick with the facts in your assessment of things.

Help change your children’s perspective on things. The restrictions we face can be seen and portrayed as positives: they are designed to keep us safe. The same can be said about masks, it’s good that there are small measures you can take to keep yourself safe. Australia has a social security system that works – and we won’t run out of food. We can talk with Grandma and Pops by Facetime or Zoom. These are the facts. 

For some people it is really bad, I get it. For many people it’s the consequences of the pandemic which are the most worrying. And, it would be wrong for people like me to pretend otherwise. However, for most people the safety measures are an inconvenience – maybe even a major one, but one that must be endured to keep people safe. These are the proportional kinds of words we need to use around children. We need not use words like ‘this is the end’ or ‘it’s so terrible’ or ‘we won’t survive this’. These are not the facts; they are interpretations.

There are many of compassionate people and community services who are and will support families and particularly Victorian’s at this time. Any of us could be affected by the pandemic and face shut down restrictions. The broad messages are that this is a sad time. But, we ‘can’ and we ‘will’ get through this time. We (our society) have been through these types of problems before. In the scheme of things, Australia has done that they very well in the past and with this pandemic. I’m not being overly optimistic here – or burying my head in the sand. The broad messages we need to be giving children needs to be one of hope and safety.

For your children, acknowledge how they are feeling but don’t necessarily agree with them – or overly reassure them. You can acknowledge without agreeing and you can let them experience some small distress without trying to fix it for them. My experience tells me that children won’t be damaged by sadness as much as they will be by anger. So, it is important to try and not be too angry at the politicians or at the world in front of your children if you don’t want your children affected by this pandemic.

Give them a sense of what they can – and can’t control. You can control your schoolwork – 9 to 1. You can control a walk every day (with a mask if necessary). You can control washing your hands and not giving grandma a hug, for the time being. You can’t control the pandemic, you can’t control how other people blow-things out of proportion and nor can you control what’s happening in the rest of the world. So encourage children to let these things go!

As a general rule we need to moderate what our children see and hear. Stick with the facts and keep bringing things back to the facts.

Sometimes you can’t shelter children from things – and we need to be “real” about this. You can control your commentary around the pandemic in proportion and frame some of the inconveniences as positives to keep them safe. You can keep your children’s mild and low-stress in proportion. That’s a parent’s job.  

Parentshop’s No Scaredy Cats program – reducing anxiety and building resilience-thinking skills (2-12) helps the adults in a child’s life to build-up their skill base for helping children manage emerging anxiety, by providing day-to-day tips and strategies.

Parentshop is hosting a parent-led child development interactive webinar for Parents to learn the skills to identify and reduce anxiety and build resilience in their children. This webinar hosted by Parentshop Founder and No Scaredy Cats course creator Michael Hawton. It will be held over three, two hour long sessions over three consecutive Mondays, 28th September, 5th and 12th October from 9.30am – 11.30am AEST for only $99 – CLICK HERE to register. 

Michael Hawton is the founder of Parentshop, providing education and resources for parents and industry professionals working with children. He has authored two books on child behaviour management: Talk Less Listen More and Engaging Adolescents. You can find more information, including his books and self-paced online parenting courses at https://www.parentshop.com.au/parent-courses/

Click here for upcoming No Scaredy Cats Professional Courses.

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