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Solution vs Diversion… Reflecting on ‘At Risk’

‘Least at risk’; An expression we’ve heard from day 1 about the risks to children’s health from Covid-19. But; as they lose their contact with the world, their place in it, and the people they love the most; I would argue that they’re definitely not ‘least at risk’ psychologically.
No one has ever before experienced their reality. With barely a day’s notice, school life ended indefinitely. Children had no chance to bid farewell to their teachers & friends, some of which they may never see again. And into social isolation our children have gone…

Necessary as they may be, the measures to slow the spread of infection go against everything it means to be human; 40% of our ‘thinking’ brain is designed for-and strengthened by-social & emotional enrichment. Let’s keep in mind that in wars & prisons, isolation & confinement are used as punishment. Are we really acknowledging just how much we are asking children to cope with?

The term ‘neuroplasticity’ is often used to describe the inherent strengths in the human brain; enabling us to be adaptable & flexible; to recover from neurological injury, to heal from psychological trauma. But the living conditions imposed on us all by ‘lockdown’ amplify the downside of neuroplasticity; ‘If you don’t use it, you lose it’.
Diverse & stimulating environments; play, games, outdoors, life in 3D; routines & rituals; novelty & variety; networks that afford fulfilling relationships; It is these things that ensure a kid’s neurons keep ‘firing & wiring’.

The best in humanity is coming forward, investing its energies to keep kids stimulated & educated online but; with much of a healthy diet of experience so significantly depleted from their lives; can we really expect online exercise classes, time in the garden-for those that have one-and a daily bike ride (if they’re lucky) to plug the gap?
More importantly, will this be enough to keep their mental health intact? Even those fortunate enough to live in a safe & nurturing family; with parents who will keep them engaged & learning; are being denied the fundamentals of the human condition; Social bonds, connection with their tribes and a sense of belonging.

Positioning our children with relative fortune because other children lived through WW2-as I heard on morning TV- is both futile and unfair. It’s not an excuse to dismiss any child’s primitive human need, or to disrespect their right to a childhood as nature intended. Yes, it may only be for 12 weeks or 6 months but, younger children especially do not have a concept of how long that feels like. And no child’s childhood actually lasts very long.
…And communities faced WW2 in solidarity, not solitude; The war’s childhood population were not denied their right to play, to be nurtured by friendships, to give love to those they love dearly, and to receive it back in return. Connection is; and always has been; the vital ingredient for humans to survive & thrive in adversity, and there’s not much room for that on a diet of social distancing.

When we went into this crisis, we were already in crisis with regard to our children’s mental health, so I can’t not ask how this might be magnified in the pursuit of the ‘solution’ to Covid-19?
This is unchartered territory for all of us, so only time will tell, but my deepest fear is that the cost of ‘responding to, solving and fixing’ will be passed to many of our young people-particularly those who are already vulnerable, the unidentified ‘at risk’-and that their mental health will be the method of payment…


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