A time has come that mother and child are of the same age. A guide for parents at these difficult times
Mom, will we all get sick? When will I go to school again? Will grandpa die?
And suddenly we were filled with questions and in a paradoxical way, the more in number they become, the more the answers seem to dry up. After all, who said “adults must know everything”? Or rather, how long until we adults recognize that we do not know everything?
The period is unprecedented, the scene after the very recent traffic ban is more reminiscent of Murakami’s novel than another day in our little Greece. And we have us, first of all, us, already feeling quite lost and confused. And at the same time, through our parental role, we need to answer questions that even if they come from children’s mouths seem so complicated. What should I answer? Where to start, what words to use and how to conclude.
Perhaps it is one of those rare times when a mother-fox and a young-fox are of the same age. Because they both live it all for the first time. The first thing we have to do is fight this ignorance. In the midst of a plethora of information, in the midst of a storm of images with white T-shirts, masks and costumed conversations, let’s keep some words as a guide. A hidden ace up our sleeve, in the precious conversations we will have with our children. Not only now that the issue is difficult, but always.
Honesty. A word that fits so much in it. Don’t be afraid to say I don’t know. But complete your sentence with something you do know. “I don’t know when you’ll go to school again, but I know you’ll learn a lot at home.” “I don’t know if we’ll all get sick, but I know we’ll be very careful not to do that.” “I don’t know when you’ll see your friends again, but I know you’ll talk to them whenever you want on the phone until you see them again.”
Consistency. I remind that to the parents I meet every day, it matters little what we say, more what we do, and even more what we are. Before we start giving orders, sharing threats, and cultivating phobias, let’s look in the mirror. How consistent are we with what we ask of our son or daughter? Are we falling into the trap of parental power, and forgetting to comply first with what we are asking for?
Safety. It is important to remember that children work mainly by instinct. They catch emotions, record looks, hear silences. Before we are confronted with their questions and anxieties, it is necessary that we have worked out our own anxieties. Information, understanding, precaution, calmness, our stability, first of all in the seriousness of the situation are conditions to convey a sense of security both in the home and in every conversation we have with our child.
Time. Relationships take time, especially parenting, which is different every day and progresses so fast that it seems static until you wake up one day realizing, frightened, that it has slipped out of your hands. Today’s difficult conditions give you generously, albeit compulsorily, this unique opportunity to have time. Before you rush to give answers, listen. Listen to the question, listen to the anxiety, listen to the fear. Ask yourself another question. Question: What are you afraid of? What do you miss most? What are you thinking? What makes you sad? Find out as much as you can and answer only what they ask of you. Don’t fall into the trap of responding to your own anxieties. Give more information than the mind can process. Remember your relationship with your child, the protagonist is them. You just “keep their lines” if they forget the words … and their hand in order for them to know you are there. Now and always.
Communication. Talk, listen, touch, share, look. Communication takes many forms, so it goes hand in hand with time. Communication without time is a relationship without contact, it is a meeting without a hug. Does not exist. Build communication with your child, find their code, use the right vocabulary depending on their developmental phase. It is difficult, sometimes impossible, to be easy to understand, but not boring, to be reassuring but not false. Keep in mind that you have to be present in the insignificant in order for them to trust you in their important ones as well. In their fears and desires.
Joy. This little magic word. Whatever the circumstances, let alone the specific ones, that fear and anxiety fill even our most fortified souls, joy must always be in the back and front of your mind. Remember to speak with a smile, to have the windows open to bathe your house with light. To the adults I meet when I invite them to bring me children memories, it’s the first thing I hear. Light or darkness. In some houses the day was shorter, the night was early, and in others the sun had made another deal and was sitting around for longer. Don’t underestimate the situation, but don’t let it cover everything. Appreciate this unique moment when you share each other’s company, listen to their stories and tell them about yours. Besides, don’t forget, the most important thing in this very strange period is the relationship. Together.
Anna Kandaraki is a clinical psychologist – psychotherapist. Doctor of the Medical School of the University of Athens, and graduated with honours from the University of Paris V Rene Descartes in the Sorbonne. She has a master’s degree in clinical psychology specializing in adolescent and adult child psychopathology.
She specializes in systemic existential psychotherapy, takes adults, families and couples who face difficulties across the spectrum of Psychopathology (anxiety disorders, panic attacks, psychosomatic, emotional disorders, eating disorders) or any difficulties they may face because of a disease (obesity, diabetes, cancer) or because they are facing significant changes and decisions in their lives.
She has written extensively in Greek and international press as she has participated in international conferences as a guest speaker.
Dr. Kandaraki, before focusing on the science of Psychology, has a degree in Archeology from the University of Athens, a master’s degree in Art History from the University of Louvre, postgraduate training in cultural management and organizing exhibitions from the University of Montreal.