No doubt many parents are feeling extraordinary stress these days. Are their children safe at school? What are their supports should their child be quarantined from school? How do you work from home effectively while children are there? When will government support end and the reality of a diminished job market set in? Will this stress ever end?
Perhaps the final question is the only one I should address for the moment as the others are very much up in the air. Will this stress ever end? Probably not; parents stress, always have and always will, although the levels do rise and fall at various times. In other words, there will always be stress but sometimes it will be worse than others. It’s one of those things, among other things, that parents need to learn to balance.
When I was teaching I would often use history and geography to remind students that most of their current concerns were “first world problems.” It doesn’t take much effort to realize that the wars, plagues, famines, and economic crises of the past created situations for populations as a whole just as bad, or perhaps even worse, than what is happening around us today. Then again, look at countries like Syria, Lebanon and many parts of Africa and you realize quickly that even in modern times our children’s greatest advantage is their place of birth.
The concept of perspective, however, does not diminish the real challenges that some families are facing. Neither a history nor a geography lesson can serve any value to a family facing financial ruin, homelessness or severe food security. There are families in desperate need at the moment and they will require government and/or community support, without judgement. Most of them will not have “chosen” their circumstances although there may be lessons we will all learn from the crises surrounding us.
The pandemic has served as a wake-up call to the world and a reminder to us, as parents, that we are laying down the foundation for the future of our children and grandchildren.
When we push the reset button once this crisis lifts, will we opt for “business as usual” or will we develop a more holistic and healthy approach to our role as stewards of the planet? The pandemic has been a disaster, but it pales in comparison to the impact climate change is already having and which will intensify as the polar caps disappear and the change accelerates.
The biggest news item of 2020 before the pandemic was the unprecedented Australian wildfires and now the west coast of the U.S. is having its own version of unprecedented damage from fires. The hurricane season in the west and the typhoons in the east, and the subsequent flooding from them have been up there with the worst in history.
Stress management requires action. If we are to create a world for our children that is safe and sustainable, we are going to have to envision a world different than the pre-pandemic one and when the reset button is pushed, move in that direction. The one thing that history and geography lessons can teach us is that those who acted, in the face of difficult circumstances, were the most likely to find success. It is the story of immigration world-wide, where parents who wanted a better life for their children fled their dire situations at home and went somewhere else.
Well, we can’t flee the planet, and the interconnectedness of global climate change and a pandemic should serve as that wake-up call we need. Let’s not kick our global problems entirely down the road for our children; let’s teach them and help them to create a world that perhaps, in future generations, will be less stressful for families. Idealistic? Sure, but if we’re not looking forward to, and working towards a better future, it is unlikely there will be one!
Graham Hookey is the author of Parenting Is A Team Sport (Kindle Books) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.