Is the pandemic scarring our children for life? And how can we help?

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How do we support our children to become well-rounded during and after lockdown? Photo: Getty Images
How do we support our children to become well-rounded during and after lockdown? Photo: Getty Images

Parents often wonder what lessons their children will take out of this pandemic, if the lockdown will leave their children scarred forever, or if they will develop certain character traits that will help them in the future.

Parent24 joined a webinar with Dr Colleen Vassiliou, a qualified psychologist and Head of Kingswood College, to ask these exact questions. Dr Vassiliou stared off by explaining that very often, as parents, we focus on the child's mental health and we forget about their wellness and their wellbeing.

This happens when we check if the child did their homework or if they passed a certain test, rather than doing a well-rounded check of their wellness.

How can parents do a full check-up on their children?

Parents can check a few things with their child, she says. For starters, parents can use the SMSPE acronym which is a simple way to remember to check their child's wellbeing:

SMSPE stands for:

  • S -Spiritual
  • M-Mental Health
  • S -Social skills
  • P-Physical
  • E-Emotional

When it comes to your child's spiritual wellness, Dr Vassiliou says that "Here, parents are checking their child's sense of belonging, sense of purpose and sense of acceptance. Ask your child, 'what do you feel you are getting out of today's tasks?'"

Your child's mental health can be checked by asking your child if they're getting their homework done, if they're passing their examinations at school, says Dr Vassiliou.

Checking your child's social skills is paramount, it helps you see if "your children are building good relationships with their friends or teachers."

Dr Vassiliou believes that checking your child's social skills can help you see if your child is pressured by her peers to do certain things that she should not be doing.

She explains that a physical health check involves parents finding out if their children are eating healthy, if they are getting enough rest and if they're sleeping properly at night.

The last essential check that Dr Vassiliou highlights is the emotional wellness of your child. In other words, "By asking what makes your child uncomfortable, happy or their heart sore." She says that asking such question will grow your child's emotional being.

Read: The four types of loss and grief that children experience during Covid-19 and how to help them cope

What about parents' SMSPE?

Dr Vassiliou emphasises that parents have to check their SMSPE because children model their parent's behaviour, "so you can't focus on them when you have not introspected on how you are doing." she adds.

"Parents need to stop looking at their mistakes or what they need to fix in themselves but look at the good that they're doing so that they can influence their children positively."

It can be so hard to get our children to open up about their day at school, so what we can do as parents to get our children to open up about how their day was at school without feeling like you are annoying them with lots of questions? 

Dr Vassiliou says, "for parents to make their children open up beyond the words, "I am fine" parents need to say "tell me about your day" instead of asking "how was your day", as that will make them feel confident and less pressured."

"Some times children do not want to talk and parents should be comfortable with that and let their children talk when they're ready to do so."

"Parents also need to let their children know that they're asking to find out how they're doing and not to check what they're not doing." she says. 

Also read: Worried about negative thoughts as a new parent? You’re not alone 

Will this generation be permanently scarred by the pandemic?

The expert says that there might not be complete scarring but "permanent difference", as things have completely changed during lockdown.

Dr Vassiliou says that she often sees that children who are facing great difficulties at home tend to be more resilient.

She says that the children will definitely share the impact the lockdown had on them, but even though that is the case more positives could come up as they outweigh the negatives.

She adds that children should appreciate the little victories they had during the lockdown, such as the time they spent with their families and the relationships they built during this time. 

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