By Dickson Tumuramye
There is anxiety among children as it seems their hope of going back to school soon is in balance. They are now worried, you hear them say that they may miss a full year, they miss playing at school, their friends among others. The government has not yet come out to declare the next step, whether schools and higher institutions of learning will open this year or not. Instead, we only hear speculations that this might be a dead year for some classes.
There is also a lot that is now happening in our communities. The media has been reporting increased cases of teenage pregnancy since the lockdown and closure of schools. Worse still, you can hardly spend more than two days without watching cases of murder on television especially men killing their wives and children. Our children are watching and listening to all these and some ask if it’s normal or something has gone wrong.
I recently visited my friend in one of the apartments within Kampala and found around 20 children and teenagers playing together and others were seated comfortably chatting. What came into my mind was what happens if these children have all this leisure time and exposure at hand? If they are not being fully occupied by their parents, as they used to be at school by classes and extra curricular activities, what do they do alone? Could this “too much” closeness and leisure time be the reason behind teenage pregnancy in some places? Should we say it’s moral decadency at play for what we hear, read, or watch? Is it a parents’ failure to address issues of sexuality with their children? Do we blame the government for closing schools to-date?
We have candidates and university finalists who are not sure whether they will complete this year or next year. Most finalists were seeing themselves finishing this year, graduate and join the field to start working or join the streets to seek job opportunities. All this hangs in a balance as they are not sure of what will happen. Some candidates had planned for their vacation either to start some work or join their relatives abroad. Even the airports are still closed.
Government, schools, parents had embraced media teaching and online/e-learning. But now, the learners are losing interest and to some parents, e-learning is becoming expensive yet the assurance of benefits, if children don’t resume this year may not be worth it. The fact that time invested in learning and homeschooling may not yield into promotion next year leaves learners and parents disgusted. All this, in the end, is causing boredom, irritations, bad behaviors in our families, stress, anxiety, depression and suicide as some have done during this lock down.
It is at this level that parents need to stand strong and encourage children to keep calm. You cannot all be emotional and judgemental against the current situation. A parent must be like a shock absorber and hold his/her breathe. You need to be the first counselor to your children. Be sober and alert.
Parents who are not working as a result of this pandemic could be telling their children how they are not sure if they will send them back to school this year even if schools or higher institutions of learning resume. This is like adding salt to a very painful wound. We may get a lot of psychological disorders from different categories of people in our homes because the economic ground is not well leveled. This is a reason you need to manage stress and anxiety levels in your family brought about by this COVID-19 pandemic.
Sit with your children, spouse, or family members to address issues of irritation, anger, defiant disorders, mood swing, or disruptive behaviors before the situation gets out of hand.
Don’t talk about your financial incapabilities to your children or spouse out of anger when they ask for something. Learn how to handle your emotions and temper before you create more stress on those already in danger. Read any behavioral change, among your family members and try to find out what is happening or how you can help.
Don’t stop engaging children in different life and livelihood skills for survival. Invest a lot in your family time like family talks, devotions, exercises, debates, feed them well and do anything that brings warmth in your family. Don’t let anxiety affect your child’s health or steal his/her happiness.
As a couple, don’t quarrel or fight in the presence of your children. Don’t allow them to read stress on you. Don’t discuss your marriage challenges if any to your already stressed children. Don’t try to fix their own challenges alone, use them to seek solutions, and together be problem-solvers.
Learn to teach your children/family members healthy coping skills, read and research about the analyzed problem in your family and to solve it. If it goes beyond your control, don’t die alone; collaborate, and seek help from friends, relatives, or professional psychologists. Above all, God is always our answer to every problem. He tells us to carry all our burdens for us who labor, and are heavy laden, and he will give us rest (Matthew 11:28).
The writer is a child advocate, parenting coach, and marriage counselor.