Dear Dr. Debbie,
“It’s too much to deal with” is my four-year-old’s new expression. When the seven-year-old encounters connectivity glitches during online schooling she says, “I can’t go on.” I don’t think I have ever used these exact words, but it’s certainly how I feel some days. Can you suggest a new mantra or words of encouragement we can learn to use as this pandemic wears on?
Keeping It Together
Words can be powerful. Even unspoken words. The power of a mantra, or self-talk, is an intentional choice of words that can positively influence our thoughts and behavior.
Despite gallant efforts toward safe and reliable vaccines against Covid-19, we’re going to have the current health crisis for a while. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the preeminent resource for up-to-date information on the pandemic, is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and has been since 1984.
“By the time you get enough people vaccinated so that you can feel you’ve had an impact enough on the outbreak, so that you can start thinking about maybe getting a little bit more towards normality, that very likely, as I and others have said, will be maybe the third quarter or so of 2021. Maybe even into the fourth quarter,” he said in an interview last week with the Journal of the American Medical Association.
After six months, it’s time to settle in for what could be another year or more of this. Choose a good mantra to help yourself and your family power through the everyday dilemmas within this ongoing disaster.
Knowledge is Power
One approach to dealing with difficulties is to gain information. We are more able to work through a challenge the more we understand it. You might explore the topic of internet connectivity with your e-learner. “Let’s see what’s going on here,” is an optimistic attitude toward using any tool or process.
For example, using the internet (irony noted), you and your daughter could investigate how internet connectivity depends on a lot of things involving the components being connected. Here’s what I learned. Data travels a circuitous route between point A and point Z. There could be an issue with the teacher’s internet service, her computer, or the source of the video she’s trying to show.
Between her home and yours are a number of routers to relay the signals. They could be affected by technical failures or excessive data traffic. The same problems that are possible on the teacher’s end could be occurring with your child’s device.
Some solutions to reducing glitches address inefficiencies on your end. These could be managed with the help of an upgrade to your equipment or service. Issues beyond your control will be more tolerable if your daughter understands that at this time, wireless technology, and therefore the delivery method of her schooling, is imperfect.
You can use investigation for all kinds of glitches. Try saying, “Let’s see what’s going on here,” the next time you’re flummoxed with unexpected charges on a bill. Use good questions and good sources to discover a missing or incorrect amount somewhere along the process of preparing that bill—either on your end or theirs.
Focusing on facts rather than blame or hopelessness, you can often resolve a misunderstanding and apply realistic expectations for the future.
Models of Fortitude
As social beings, we humans like to find and use examples for our behavior in other people. You probably have some for your professional skills as well as parenting ideals. Maybe you idolize an entrepreneur, or Olympian, or entertainer, who overcame myriad obstacles in pursuit of a goal, but also has achieved high marks for her motherhood. Fictitious characters work just as well. Mary Poppins serves as a terrific example of using a little magic (this translates as imagination) to entertain and motivate her young charges.
Maybe your children have fictional heroes with characteristics they admire. A good example of an individual constantly getting in and out of trouble is Winnie the Pooh. “Oh bother,” is a phrase your family might adopt. To me it means, “I’m in a pickle but I’ve been here before and gotten out, too.”
My favorite Pooh predicament is when he overindulged in honey when visiting Rabbit and found himself too wide to manage an exit. The passage of time, plus some pushing and pulling from his friends, eventually got him through.
We’ve Got This
The Pan American Health Organization, regional office of the Americas for the World Health Organization, has produced a book for children to help them understand and see good examples of combatting Covid-19. You can share Wicked Virus and the Powerful Children by Daniel Cavalcanti Campos from a free download. Use it to help your children understand the cause of our unusual precautions—do school at home, go to outside places more than inside places, keep six feet apart from people you don’t live with, wear a mask, wash your hands with soap and vigor.
Your family might also help others, as the people responsible for this book and many others are doing. Participate in food collections and distributions to help families in need. Offer to create a checkpoint each day with a classmate—to compare notes on lessons and assignments, perhaps at the start of the lunch break. Your daughter and her friend, and both parent proctors, can fill in each other’s gaps instead of remaining clueless or depending on the teacher’s ability to clear up confusions.
“I could use some help here” might be a nice way of expressing to those around you that assistance would be appreciated. Just as “What can I do to help?” can be the reaction to expressions of exasperation around you.
Deborah Wood, Ph.D. is a child development specialist with degrees in Early Childhood Education, Counseling, and Human Development. Workshops for parents, teachers, and childcare professionals can be found at: drdebbiewood.com.