For the past two months our country has been thrust into a new norm because of a global pandemic called the new coronavirus or COVID-19. The constant delivery of information to our people about the seriousness of this pandemic may have caused a surge of panic, forcing thoughts of “danger” to pop into the heads of some of our people.
The COVID-19 pandemic within itself has people experiencing varying emotions that are difficult for them to explain. As a matter of fact, for many Bahamians the uncertainty of what tomorrow holds has placed them in a bubble from which they have no idea how to get out. There are such uncertainties as to whether they still have a job, how long the funds will last, what to do with the children, how to keep the children occupied, not having the tools to teach the children, not knowing how to teach them, when will this all end or whether they, too, will get sick. Additionally, there are the frontline workers who dedicated their lives to saving the lives of others or providing essential services to others by putting themselves in danger. They, too, have the uncertainty of what the next second, minute or hour may present, dreading the possibility of contracting the invisible COVID-19 or, worse, taking this virus home to their families. The mere fact that people are faced with such uncertainty can be an emotional roller coaster for them.
The same as adults, children, too, are feeling the turmoil of the pandemic. They also have uncertainty, especially those students who were preparing to graduate this year. There is uncertainty about whether or not they are properly academically prepared, or whether colleges and universities accept their application; or there is uncertainty for the child who just had enough of being cooped up all day without their classmates or friends, or without the freedom of movement they are accustomed to at school. Of course these children would become more irritable. Truthfully, COVID-19 has affected all of us in every facet of our lives.
For some of us, we have learned how to deal with our feelings in a healthy manner – for example, finding a hobby; but then there are others who cope in an unhealthy manner – for example, drinking excessively. How we cope speaks volumes about our social-emotional well-being. So, what is social-emotional learning (SEL)? It is the process through which we acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage our emotions. Also, social-emotional learning helps us to set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships and make reasonable decisions, according to an article on the Aperture Education website.
Further, our home environment has taught us coping mechanisms on how to recover quickly through challenging times. This is known as resiliency. It is often said that Bahamians are resilient people. The research shows that social-emotional skills portrayed by adults can help build resiliency in children. Whether healthy or unhealthy, our home environments have taught us different ways to bounce back amidst adversity. The knowledge we gained, our thoughts, attitudes and the skills acquired since birth have taught us how to navigate the varying emotions, especially those displayed during times of uncertainty.
As much as possible, we can start putting into practice the following strategies necessary for recovery that will help us as a nation to bounce back after this pandemic is over:
• Model pro-social behaviors such as being kind and mindful of others. For example, being sensitive to the most vulnerable people, lending a hand to those who are less fortunate, teaching your children how to share with those in need through an organization and cooperating with authorities by following rules and regulations.
• Put a name to emotions through self-awareness. This simply means being honest and aware of what you are feeling. Putting a name on emotions allows you to take responsibility and address negative emotions (e.g. I’m frustrated now, but after working in my yard I will feel great).
• Show empathy by understanding how others may be feeling during this difficult time (e.g. telling your child you understand their boredom because that’s how you are feeling as well, or sharing in the excitement when your child excels on a virtual learning project).
• Being aware of the issues that the country is facing on a daily basis (e.g. reopening businesses, flattening the COVID-19 curve), and being conscious of the difficulties and hardship that societies have to deal with by recognizing and understanding the mood of the people. For example, keeping abreast of the updates given by the relevant agencies, having awareness that there is a process for reopening and being aware of the safety and health measures. Such awareness can foster a sense of security.
• Prepare mentally for what is to come. For example, instead of getting worked up on situations that you have no control over, channel your thoughts and attitudes toward more productive activities.
• Encourage positive and healthy relationships during this time. Allow your children to see you displaying such behaviors by not engaging in negative communication or the blame game. Get your family involved in healthy, productive activities such as board games, gardening, baking/cooking, having family dinner or a family book club, etc.
• Practice self-care by taking care of your physical and emotional health. When stressed, we tend to overreact in unhealthy ways that create other problems. It is easy to find yourself overeating or engaging in potentially addictive behaviors such as but not limited to excessive alcoholic drinking, smoking, video gaming, gambling, the internet, shopping, pornography, etc. Taking care of yourself means you should monitor the things that you do, such as eating nutritious and balanced meals; exercising as often as you can; finding alone/quiet time; using time effectively (reading a book, writing about the future); trying out new hair styles; painting your nails; trying new makeup tips; or adding time for prayers, meditation or any other healthy activity that makes you feel refreshed or relaxed.
• Limit the amount of exposure to “fake news”, negative social media correspondences and gossips. According to an article published by UNESCO in April, unreliable information can put lives at risk.
• Take the lead by fostering and cultivating the positive social-emotional skills that you have learned to aid others in finding their own social and emotional learning skills while feeling valued, supported and empowered.