'Our kids are struggling': Vanessa Raphaely offers insight and tips as we navigate the pandemic

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Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash
Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash

As the pandemic drags on, the continued school closures, lockdown restrictions, illness and isolation might be getting to us, but for the children it can be worse as they lose out on so many of their formative experiences. 

Vanessa Raphaely, former editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine and current Head Chief of the popular Facebook parent's group The Village, recently weighed in on how the pandemic is impacting our families.

In a post in The Village, she summed up what so many parents are experiencing, and offered up some tips for parents who see their children suffering.  

Read her post below:

Occasionally, I feel the need to just write a little love note from my birds-eye view of this Village.

It's definitely not like I know more than anyone else, it's just, as I hover over every post and every private DM, that I definitely SEE more.

And at the moment - what I see is this: Kids (SO many kids,) are suffering. We as parents, are asking for recommendations for therapists and counsellors up to 4/5 times a day, asking for help motivating kids who won't or can't engage with school or uni, asking for help as our kids are admitted to clinics.

We are reporting their rebellious, disrespectful, withdrawn, depressed and sometimes even deviant behaviour. More than ever before.

Our kids are struggling.

And so are we.

Are you anxious about your child, their present and future? You aren't alone. I promise you.

And it should come as no surprise. Parenting through the teen and young adult years are tough at the best of times. And in the safest and most secure of environments. (We get distress DMs from New Zealand, too! I promise.)

And, oh my goodness prepare for the understatement of this century, from me, your Captain Obvious ...these are not the best of times. Nor is South Africa or even our world, the safest or most secure, at this horrible moment.

If you're feeling the heavy weight of parental fear.... IT'S NOT JUST YOU. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

BUT... this too will pass.

Also read: Nurturing dads raise emotionally intelligent kids – helping make society more respectful and equitable 

The vast majority of troubled teens, do get through the awful years. Even if they are suffering greatly when in the thick of it. Even if the years are very awful indeed.

In my experience, suffering can be a positive. Many adults who had a rough time as a child, come though more resilient, more insightful and even sometimes more empathetic than those who didn't hurt quite so much.

But everyone hurts. And as a parent, you cannot protect or prepare your child for the slings and arrows of life.

Neither should you. To make everything OK is not your job.

Our job, as parents, I think, is really rather simpler than we think it has to be.

Our job, as parents of struggling humans, distilled down to first principles, is to Be There.

To walk along that shitty path with our children. We don't need to offer advice, or answers, or strategies for success, or privilege or wealth, as we plod. (Humans mostly need to figure out their own survival strategies, anyway - doing what will make Mom or Dad happy, is not a recipe for healthy and happy adults.)

The best parent walks alongside. Or sits as their child sobs. Listening to and acknowledging pain. Sometimes we plod, with our arms around our kids. Sometimes with our arms firmly clasped behind our back and our mouths clenched tightly shut.

Also read: Men should spend on average 50 minutes more a day on household duties, report finds 

Mostly the job is just Being There. Sometimes, Being There is just being at the end of a cellphone call as a willing ear. It's not literal.

It's support, steadfastness and faith in a better tomorrow or next year, that's the Parental X factor, in hell times, in my opinion.

If one has to say anything? My only advice? Tell them ( and yourself) it'll be ok. That they ( and you) WILL get through this. That darkness only lasts 'til dawn. That YOU, who love them, dearly, believe in their ability to grow and to prevail. That you'll help as much as you possibly can to help THEM get there.

That it's ok to fail. That its ok to mess up. That you acknowledge their reality. That being a mess some of the time is being human.

Time in a clinic? Repeating a year at school? Weekends spent alone under a duvet? Re-jigging plans? Swerving? Taking a more windy road a slower way round? All of these are the new normal, for many of our kids.

For us, too. These are NOT normal times.

Parents are told kids come with no handbooks. That's true. We all write our own handbooks, for ourselves, as we go. But that doesn't mean there aren't some thoughts which might help along the way.

Must read: Four fathers share how lockdown affected their work and parenting 

Especially when its dark and scary, as all lives just are, at some point.

Village Mom? Or Dad? Here are a very few things you can do. to help your kid. They're not the magic wand to deliver you a happy, valadictorian, on their way to Harvard via the Japan Olympics - I dont know about you, but that's NOT on my mood board.

What these suggestions will do is put you at your child's side as they figure it all out themsleves - in that very messy human way.

As a person who has parented 5 children (and counting,) I can tell you this: The deep bond between parent / or caring adult and child, is really the most beautiful and meaningful part of the parenting journey.

Here we go (I said there were few):

  • Patience is a wholly underrated parental skill. 
  • Reliability is crucial. 
  • Belief in your child's ability to get through is comforting and heartening when they have no faith in themselves. The skill, sometimes to just sit and listen and not advise is often deeply comforting to a person in distress. 
  • And then, the ability not to buckle - to parent.

It's a very difficult gig - parenting. Which is why, sometimes, you CAN just do the very simple things. Nothing ever gets "fixed" overnight.

And sometimes, none of what I've said will seem to work? Then ask The Village. 40 000 people who either are, or once were, or who will be, in EXACTLY the same place as you are, are sure to offer some advice.

Help helps.

Reprinted with permission, find the original post on The Village here.

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