Over the past few weeks, many of us have been absorbing the news of the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) like a horror movie slowly unfolding.
Some of us may be wondering in our heads: Is it safe to travel amid the outbreak? Should children be kept home?
Apart from upping levels of personal hygiene practices in our homes, avoiding crowded places, and washing our hands religiously, how else can we respond to this threat of a potentially deadly disease?
Understanding who is on the driver’s seat
As parents, the fear of something unseen and unknown that could affect our children’s lives can lead us to react with raw emotion. This is perhaps due to our basic survival instincts, triggering our fight or flight responses.
We see this especially in situations that make us feel like we’re not in control. Such as when the stores run out of masks and hand sanitisers, when the childcare centre does not give us regular updates on the measures they are taking to ensure our children’s well-being, or when we have to take compulsory leave of absence from our work.
These scenarios can be incredibly fear-inducing and frustrating.
And then there is also social media, which tends to fan the flames of fear and anxiety given how rapidly news (whether accurate or false) about the COVID-19 spreads.
Bearing witness to, and keeping up with all the developments can be overwhelming.
Our focus shapes our response
What we train our minds on also guides our actions.
Because we are suddenly thrown into a world of fear and uncertainty, we find ourselves desperately trying to make sense and order out of disorder.
Some hoard masks, hand sanitizers and wet wipes. The promised additional supplies of face masks are already fast flying off the shelves due to high demand. Netizens have also begun to stigmatise or label former COVID-19 patients and their families.
Should we take a step back from all the bad news and ask ourselves: What kind of role model do I want to be to my children? And what values do I want to pass on to them?
Let’s ask ourselves: What kind of role model do I want to be to my children?
Balancing fear by working together
It is in this space that we can also consider some of the facts surrounding the virus and the global situation. Governments around the world have been sharing crucial information about the virus in a concerted effort to work together to combat its spread.
We’re not trying to use information and facts to fight our fears, but it helps us to be aware of our fears and to express them in a healthy way, such as by sharing our concerns with loved ones and receiving information from trusted media sources.
To balance fear, we can also choose to respond in confidence and faith as a family:
- Trust that our government and medical workers are doing the best that they can. The sense of gratitude keeps us grounded.
- Protect them from misinformation from sources. Keep your children up to date with the facts and assure them if they feel anxious. Make sure the conversation moves on to something more positive such as what to do on the weekend.
- Exercise vigilance as you go about your daily lives. Take precautions such as avoiding crowds, staying home if feeling unwell, washing our hands often, and coughing into our inner elbows or mask.
Such a health crisis can only abate if the whole of society works together – including governments, healthcare workers, and individuals like you and me.
If we stay calm and united, we will be in a better position to lead our children and our families out of this crisis.
Focus on the opportunities within the crisis
It will take time for vaccines to be developed, and for this virus to die down. Until then, it would be best to keep our cool and stay united.
Within every crisis, there is an opportunity to grow.
Use this event as a motivation to exercise more often, eat healthier food, and spend more unhurried time with your children at home — not just training them up academically, but also talking about values such as teamwork, our faith in God, and hope.
There may be many things outside of our control, but if we stay steadfast in this hour of need, we can develop the resilience to tackle future challenges.
Think about how you will use this crisis situation to teach your child an important value.
For more information about COVID-19, please visit the World Health Organization or the Ministry of Health Malaysia.
© 2020 June Yong. All rights reserved. Adapted with permission. This article was originally published by Focus on the Family Singapore.