How Much More Can Our Kids Take?

As I logged into the site just now, I was amazed at how long it has been since I’ve written anything. Those of you who check out Tips know I often use this platform to get something off my mind, hopefully it is usually something affecting a lot of us. Being that my mind has been spinning for 20 months, the paucity of posts surprise me. I’ve been a frequent rider on the scared, pissed off, grateful roller coaster, but in between turns, I have also spent quite a bit of time on the ferris wheel. On the way up, there is hope the view will be different at the top, and maybe, just maybe things can start to … but then … nope, exactly the same and I descend again. There is plenty to write about, but beneath all of the emotion, there is also this undercurrent of apathy. Does anything matter in the same way? When uncertainty is the new normal, why bother … with anything? I think the apathy is a defense against the fear, and in order to rail against the apathy, we have to confront the fear. Other than love, fear is the driver behind most of our actions and decisions, and she can be a real shit behind the wheel.

Of late, I’ve been thinking mostly of my kids, and how a couple of years surrounded by negativity, judgement and unpredictability has affected them. How deep into their DNA have we infused toxic emotions? How will growing up in a society terrified about illness change the way they view their own strengths and vulnerabilities? Will growing up in a world that is actually gray, but seeing issues as only black or white, right or wrong, prevent them from developing empathy and reason? There is not a person among us, old or young, that is not forever changed by the last year and a half. The mental health struggle is real, for everyone. Sustained uncertainty is crippling our ability to cope with the day to day, and I am seeing it in patients whose mental wellbeing was as sound as it gets prior to the pandemic. I feel for everyone, but as a mother, it is our kids I worry about most.

If you have young kids, I urge you to make your home as free of fear and covid conversation as possible. Listen to Pink’s new song with her daughter, and try to live by the beautiful lyrics, “Cover me in sunshine. Shower me with good times. Tell me that the world’s been spinning since the beginning and everything will be alright.” Tell them and show them they are safe, healthy, capable and loved. Turn off the news.

Bigger kids present more of a challenge. At home, we can only do so much, as outside of school, activities and homework, our kids spend just a couple hours a day with us, and that is if we are lucky. Here is my latest, and starting to be greatest, fear. Schools seem to be going back to business as usual, albeit in masks. After a year and a half of stunted academic growth, we are right back to the high pressure environment, right back to work overload and rigorous testing with no room for creativity and allowances to meet students where they now find themselves emotionally and scholastically. Every day, more parents tell me their kids are anxious and depressed. I know teachers are stressed to a breaking point, too. I know there is limited time and resources to infuse wellness and stress reduction. I am aware there are obstacles to decompressing the culture. But, these are not normal times. Can I use the most overused word ever and say they are unprecedented? And, this being the case, don’t we owe it to our kids — and to our teachers — to adjust no matter what it takes. Shouldn’t we try to make changes, so we don’t propagate more suffering as we try to emerge from a life-altering global event? There are things that can be done that will not just impact the children who have been identified as struggling, they will impact the whole community. Have we learned nothing about what is truly important? This has to be time for a refocus on the wellbeing of all of our students. This needs to be the time to recognize the mental health of our children should be a priority. If not now, when? God help us if we wait for a tragedy to acknowledge we have a problem.

Please join me this Wednesday, October 20th at 7pm at the Ridgewood Y to screen a documentary, Chasing Childhood, and perhaps even more importantly, to come together to discuss how we can do a better job of ushering our children through this next stage. You can sign up here. If you cannot attend, you can receive an email with a link to view the documentary on your own time. It is free, and I am so appreciative to the Ridgewood Y for this sponsorship as part of the Y Wellness Now Initiative.

 

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Author: Karen Latimer

Karen is a Family Physician, Wellness Coach, and founder of Tips From Town. She is passionate about sharing her medical expertise, her coaching techniques and her parenting experience to encourage happier and healthier lives.

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