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Catch Them while They Are Falling, Not After They Have Fallen

So, if you’ve read last week’s blog you’ll be familar with my fears about children’s mental health, and that Covid-19 shan’t leave it as unscathed as we’d like.
Of course, I don’t think of my 6 year old as a case-study ‘specimen’, but he is a living, breathing example of the challenges of being a child right now-He is too old to be oblivious, too young to understand. He is perfectly capable of living a simple yet joyful existence one minute, and be an authority-resistant, tearful or aggressive the next.

I may have the knowledge to decode what’s likely going on for him; namely that he’s doing more ‘feeling’ than thinking; but I haven’t got ‘parenting in a crisis’ nailed… Mainly because I’m doing more feeling than thinking myself. The pressure to run a business, parent and teach amongst this chaos means that I, myself, am flitting between being grounded, measured & in control, and needing to offload my frustrations & irritability on a regular basis. As adults; teachers; parents; whatever role we are in ourselves; we are all struggling to find our ‘new normal’, our own reality, our ‘growth mindset’, while trying to fudge the same for our kids.

That said, my main concern is not that we are powerless to help children; On the contrary, there is plenty we can do to soften the impacts of all the disruption Covid-19 has deposited on us. Echoing last week’s blog, my main concern is that I’m unconvinced that the world appreciates just how much it is expecting of our kids.
I read this week a ‘call’ for schools to repeat the summer term and my heart sank a little more.
We do not yet know whether children will miss a term, or more, but I can’t be the only one to consider this view point a little naive? If you postponed training for a marathon for three or six months, you wouldn’t expect to resume your training at the same level of fitness. And yet that’s what this ‘pick up where they left off’ attitude suggests.
Furthermore, you can’t ‘repeat’ anything that hasn’t actually happened. And *she repeats in a louder voice* children will not learn if their brains aren’t ready, and learning-readiness means being mentally well.

And yet before anyone had even heard the word ‘Covid’, we were facing a crisis in childhood mental health.
Then children became aware of a virus spreading across the planet…. Way before social distancing measures came into place, I knew of children who were catapulted into fear simply by news that Corona had reached the UK; Anxiety going through the roof, kids who couldn’t fall asleep or stay asleep, who were crying with panic… That was before they even heard of ‘lockdown’, let alone lived through the effects of 12 weeks of it.

So you’ve probably guessed that I’m not one of those people asking ‘What shall we do in June or September?’ …’How do we get our kids all caught up and back of track with their learning?’ These are not my questions….
My questions are ‘How do we NOT send our children headlong into yet another crisis?’…. ‘What do we do NOW?’, ‘How do we respond NOW?’, ‘What do children need, NOW?’
And doing something NOW must be based on the needs of our children, not the needs of meeting delayed learning outcomes & targets.

I once had the pleasure of talking alongside Margot Sunderland at a Children’s Grief & Loss conference and am reminded now of a profound statement she made; “We need to catch children while they are falling, not after they have fallen”.

Our children have lost enough already and our focus has to be preventing their mental health from being listed as another of their many losses. The ability to ‘bounce back’ may be a stretch too far for many children, but ‘catching’ them; getting them ready for a ‘soft-landing’; is within our reach…

I anticipate being repeatedly frustrated by talk of children being ‘ready’ for this over the next few weeks and months… So often the onus is unfairly placed on children to ‘be ready’. Children didn’t choose this any more than we did and the world that they re-integrate back into is likely to be somewhat, or radically different from the one they knew… But it is not the job of children to be ‘ready for this world’. That task belongs to us… and a question; THE question for me; is how do we get this world ready for our children?

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