So, on a scale of one to 10, how stressed are you?
Staying at home, quietly going about your day, and all is well? Normally housebound anyways, so this is nothing new? Are you purring along at a reasonable four-out-of-10 and handling it?
Or, are you watching your beautiful auburn hair turn grey at the roots while it gets more out of control by the day? Finding facial lines that weren’t there before the COVID-19 pandemic?
Can you hear your husband breathe from across the room? Are you an “out-of-control 10-plus”?
Many of us seem to be fluctuating between four and 10, depending on how much sleep we got the night before, how dark the sky is, and whether it’s raining.
Personally, I’ve discovered that if the sun is shining and the temperature warming, I can open the windows and let in fresh air. And sometimes, that’s all I need for a better day.
Other times, when nothing seems to help, I turn on Britbox and knit preemie caps for the wee ones at the hospital. We do what we need to do to get through this.
But try explaining “self-isolation” to a young child. It’s difficult. How do you make the word “pandemic” make sense? And for older children, how to do you impart the seriousness of the COVID-19 disease in a way that doesn’t scare them half to death? It’s hard, but doable.
My daughter has two very bright, active, creative, primary-aged children who love to play outside. As a teacher, of course, she put it simply: “We need to keep our germs to ourselves for now, so we have masks and stay inside. We don’t want to give our germs to someone else who might get sick.” Simple, to the point. The kids got it.
Or so she thought.
One morning, Trish was nudged awake by her six-year-old, Tait. “Mom,” she whispered. “I think you better come see this.”
They were cat-sitting for a friend and had tripled the kitty population to three, each with its own food in separate bowls.
Ezri, the three-year-old, had taken it upon herself to open all three cat food containers and spread all the food around their shared room. Then, to make sure the adults understood she was not happy, took her crayons and drew on the walls.
Couldn’t have been clearer. Young children lack the mental capacity to really understand something as non-concrete as “a pandemic.” But they sure have the emotional awareness to feel anxiety coming off of their parents in waves.
Children need reassurance that, while this is a pretty strange time, things will be OK. Don’t we all need that right now?
And, it’s never a bad idea to put the cat food where the kids can’t reach it.
Sarnia’s Marg Johnson is a retired Certified Child & Youth Worker who formerly worked with behaviour children as an educational assistant at the York Catholic District School Board.