By KAITLIN YENDALL
Dear parents and teachers,
Who would have predicted that in 2020 we would be wearing masks, sanitising our hands, and having our temperature taken on a daily basis? I most certainly did not. I still have days where I look around in disbelief – asking myself is this real? Is this really happening? It doesn’t take long however for reality to hit – and I am quickly reminded of the seriousness that this situation demands from us as individuals – and as a community.
Throughout the past few weeks I have constantly been reminded of the following message: We may be in the same storm – but we are definitely not in the same boat. This virus has highlighted (once again) the deep-rooted inequalities that exist in our country (and the world at large). As such, I am aware that I am speaking to a broad audience/readership – with different struggles and daily realities. Our experiences are different, and I acknowledge that. I don’t have the answers – but I can offer some words of encouragement as we navigate through these unchartered waters together.
As we slowly start re-emerging from the stringent lockdown regulations that have kept a great deal of us at home, many of us have returned to work. And as it stands, schools are expected to welcome back their Grade 7 and 12 learners on Monday 8 June. The past few weeks have been a trying time for us all – including our children and learners. It’s important that parents and teachers are able to recognise this, and offer the necessary support that children need as they begin to transition back to school (where social distancing exists and co-curriculars have been cancelled until further notice).
Before we can offer support and encouragement to our children and learners it is important that we acknowledge our own feelings and emotional experiences at this time. I am privileged to be a part of the Victoria Girls’ High School team – and am confident in the preparation that has (and continues to take place) in ensuring the safety of both its staff and learners in the wake of this pandemic.
VG is not only concerned with physical well-being but mental well-being too. As such the staff were debriefed upon their return to school last week. During the debrief session staff were offered the opportunity to express their lived emotional experiences, as well as their fears and concerns about the future with regards to the coronavirus.
I was once again reminded of the great therapeutic value that such a space can provide. Through acknowledging their emotions, the VG staff were able to find the emotional space to put themselves in their learner’s shoes. This was a process that happened quite naturally – and resulted in a great deal of compassion and empathy being expressed for the VG scholars (and what they might be experiencing at this time).
In the same way, it’s important for parents to acknowledge their thoughts and feelings. Take a moment to look back over the past few weeks. What emotions have you experienced as a result of this pandemic and lockdown period? What fears/concerns do you have about the future?
This pandemic has shook the world to its core – and many of us are experiencing a number of emotions which can fluctuate and change at a rate similar to that of the weather in Makhanda. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to deal with this pandemic. Your emotions are valid and very likely a normal response in relation to this crisis. If you are struggling emotionally / psychologically – there is no shame in reaching out to someone for assistance (see contact details below). Try to show yourself some compassion at this time – we are all doing our best to survive this pandemic and it’s vast repercussions on our lives.
In the same way that you reflected on your emotional well-being, take the time to consider the emotional state of your child/ren. How might he/she be feeling at this time. The best way that we can offer support to our children is being emotionally available to them. Below are a number of ways that you as a parent can support your child through the process of transitioning back to school.
- Try to create a space where your child can express his/her thoughts, feelings and concerns.
- Allow your child to experience his/her emotions – whatever they may be. Remember that their emotions are valid in the same way that yours are.
- Normalise your child’s emotions – remind him / her that many other children are feeling the same/similar emotions at this time. It’s okay – and quite normal.
- Have conversations with your child about the coronavirus and the importance of wearing masks and washing hands frequently. Children (of varying ages) need to have an understanding of what is happening around them. For younger children a story might be a useful way of explaining the virus to them.
- If you are unsure about what the best way forward is for your child in terms of schooling – gather as much information from reliable sources as possible. Ask questions to gain clarity. This will assist you in making the best possible decision for you, your child, and your family.
- If your child is not returning to school yet – try to create some form of routine where possible. This can act as an anchor in a time that is filled with many uncertainties and change.
- Remember that it is important both for you and your child to recharge during this time. What do you do each day that “fills” you up. Perhaps its reading a book, or walking outside. Allow yourself and your child some “off” time. This is so important for a person’s mental well-being.
- If your child is privileged enough to be able to continue with online schooling – try to provide them with the time to do so. This is their “work” and they need time to focus on this. Consider how difficult it is or was for you to work from home during lockdown. Your child is trying to do just this. It’s difficult to adjust and find the balance between home life and school.
- Be honest with your child about your emotions and share with him/her that you don’t have all the answers. We are all figuring this out together – and that’s okay.
- Lastly, take things one day at a time. As Mother Theresa said “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today.”
Mental Health Services
1. SADAG (The South African Depression and Anxiety Group)
-SADAG WhatsApp Chat Line (7 days a week from 9am to 4pm)
076 882 2775
SADAG SMS Service (Available 24/7)
SMS 31393 or 32312 and a SADAG counsellor will call you back.
SADAG Mental Health Helplines (Available 24/7)
0800 21 22 23 / 0800 70 80 90 / 0800 456 789
(Free telephonic counselling, information, referrals, and resources)
SADAG Suicide Crisis Line (Available 24/7)
0800 567 567
2. Fort England Psychiatric Hospital
046 602 2300
3. Rhodes University Psychology Clinic
046 603 8502
Keep pushing forward. We can and will overcome this.
Take care and stay safe.
VGHS School Psychologist