Monday, March 16, 2020

Fear, Our Young Children and COVID-19

What do we DO now? 

We have young children, or are caregivers for young children and we are in the midst of a world pandemic. Everything is changing so quickly in our world. Information travels so quickly - yet we have no way to gauge the truth of the information we receive. Much of the so-called information is misleading or false and sometimes even dangerous. We want to take the advice of the “experts” but who are the experts and who are the misinformation purveyors?

This can only lead to fear and anxiety for us. Fear breeds more fear. Unfortunately, in the U.S.A. we have not been guided by wise actions taken by the government to keep us safe. Finally they are waking up and starting to take action. This has not helped to stem the rise of fear, panic and hoarding. Many people feel un-empowered and unable to know what to do. I would like to offer some suggestions for staying calm and making the wisest choices we can. We don’t have to be invaded and occupied by worry, and we can take actions to keep ourselves safe and healthy as best we can. The best things we can do is to find ways to manage our own stress, fears and anxiety. Then our personal choices during this crisis can be grounded in thoughtfulness and compassion.

Before the advent of this novel coronavirus, adults had plenty to worry about. Anxiety lives in adults because there is so lack of things to be anxious about. The climate on our planet is rapidly changing and it seems like nothing is being done to change that course or adapt to the results. People are becoming more allergic to foods and environmental situations. Also, our world is filled with people who use fear as a tool to get us to buy certain products, to vote for certain candidates, and various other intentions. Anxiety and fear permeate all types of media. And we carry around a device that lets us be constantly connected to media. Our neurology is primed to look for threats and danger, and fear is used as a tool that gets our attention in media. Stress is lurking everywhere.

We all know that the young child is like a sponge for experiences in his or her environment. All levels of sensed experience go deeply in to the child’s developing soul and body. And the young child has the capacity for sensing levels of experience that most adults have long since filtered out from their palette of experience such as feelings and thoughts of those around them. Young children are a sponge also for your feelings and what you think about. And they attempt to digest all of their experiences and make them a part of themselves as they create themselves. This what Maria Montessori named the absorbent mind.

Adults are causing health issues in themselves from all the worrying and tension. Fear, worry, and tension release cortisol and other stress hormones to help us be ready for quick actions. But we are constantly flooding our bodies because our sympathetic nervous systems are overactive. The children are growing up in an environment filled with our anxiety. The children sense our anxiety, even when we are not speaking about it, and even when you are not even aware that you are feeling your anxieties.

Three things happen to the children?
  1. They adopt anxiety as their normal state, as the default mode.
  2. They cannot truly connect with other people including their anxious parents and caregivers. (Anxious parents and caregivers also are not able to truly connect.)
  3. They cannot develop to their full potential.

Young children learn by imitating. They take in what they experience and make it part of themselves. Experiencing anxiety in their beloved adults, the child learns to be anxious.

When someone is fearful or anxious, they cannot connect with those around them. Fear stimulates the reptile brain to take actions of self protection. Fear creates reactions that don’t include reaching out with openness and care to those around. So the child loses out on connection with his anxious parent.

When the adults in the environment are anxious and fearful, the young child experiences that tension and lives within it. How much effect does this have on the child's capacity for play, the young child’s essential tool for grasping the world? One can contemplate the possibilities. Fear interferes with play. True play can be a means to overcome fears and grasp the world. Play serves as a venue for learning to cope with life. There is a vicious cycle at work here.  To play requires an atmosphere of security. One has to feel safe. No safety, no play. No play, no grasping of social dynamic. In play, we are safe and so we can be vulnerable.

To top it off, the advice we are all receiving to slow the spread of COVID-19 is that social distancing is what is needed. The danger is that we combine emotional distancing with physical distancing and make our world more and more dis-connected. 


What are we gonna do?
  1. Develop our own practice of anxiety and fear reduction. A practice means it is something we have to do over and over. And over and over. Every day, except when we forget. At the same time every day, so it can become a habit, and that makes it easier to do every day. For at least a few minutes. And it’s a practice, so we don’t expect to be perfect, we only are trying to do better and better. Find your own way toward joy! I recommend watching this short video from Rick Hanson about what is needed in this present moment. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wea__XOf-BY
  2. What is the best practice? That is up to each of us to discover. There is no one-size-fits-all recipe. The best one for you is the one that you actually do that helps you to reduce fear and be able to make your inner life a safe have for peacefulness and calm, and to be able to access your parasympathetic nervous system to calm your vagus nerve. My go to for help with this are various meditations Rudolf Steiner offered, as well as the wise guidance of Rick Hanson (https://www.rickhanson.net/)
  3. It might be a good idea to limit how much time we spend on our devices plugged in to the anxiety creating media, and what times of day we do that plugging in. Perhaps make a commitment to leave off all devices during mealtimes? Perhaps don’t check your phone right before bed? Or first thing upon waking up in the morning? How often do you need to see if there are any updates about the virus? Remember, all the time you spend online is time not connecting with your children.
  4. Prepare to answer your young children when they ask why is there no kindergarten, what are we staying home, what can’t I have a playdate? The core truth I would say to my young children is; I want us to be safe and healthy. There is a virus/flu/sickness that can be serious for grownup and I don’t want anyone we know to be sick. Short, true and to the point. 
  5. You are probably staying at home a lot now. Take this as a great opportunity to enjoy being with your children!

Anxiety is not healthy for you! It gets in the way of sleep, it influences your digestion and it affects your connection with those you love.

Your anxiety is not healthy for your children. It gets in the way of their connection with you, it affects all aspects of their development, and it creates anxious little people.

Maybe now is the time to start working to overcome the anxiety of the modern world for the sake of the children, the future of our world.

I would like to offer a thought from Rudolf Steiner 100 years ago. He was speaking about the 1918 Spanish Flu but it more than applies today:

When you can't think of anything else other than fear of the diseases that are taking place around you in an epidemic, and go to sleep at night with these thoughts of fear, then unconscious after-images and imaginations - imbued with fear - are created in the soul. And this is a good seedbed in which pathogenic germs can nestle, thrive and find a pleasant breeding ground.
We can meet the false rumors and worries and not let them invade our psyches. We can meet fear head on with our warmth, love, interest, enthusiasm and compassion. What is the present moment asking of us? I think it is a call to inner work to be able to place our attention on what we choose. It is a moment to develop the capacity to make choices based on reasoned wisdom and not fear. It is a call for compassionate community. And it is an opportunity to develop active hope for positive change based on our thought-filled actions. We can work together for the good.

We have a lot of work to do. it is up to each one of us. The only obstacle is ourselves.
Take what actions you can to make your family as safe as is possible. And do the work to keep fear from invading the inner sanctum of your soul.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing this and reminding us all - what is really important.

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  2. Lots of good information and food for thought here Steve. FEAR is a choice and a pattern of thinking and behaving. We are blessed with free will and we can choose our thoughts and focus...when we are present and awake.
    Meditation is a wise daily choice to set the mind, body and spirit to a higher consciousness and vibration pattern. As spiritual beings having a human experience in a body, our natural state is we are calm, peaceful, well and whole.

    The media which is owned and controlled by the powers that be, want us to live in fear and follow all of their press releases and media programming which come in many different forms. They love to control our buying choices and votes.

    By reminding ourselves we are spirit and come from the Highest and Most Powerful Creative Force in The Universe, we can let go, breathe and choose conscious, healthy, peaceful, loving, kind and compassionate thoughts, feelings, words, tones and actions.

    Yes, we live in interesting and challenging times. It is also a huge opportunity.

    Adversity and challenges reveal character - it is up to each of us to focus our attention, energy and resources on building good character. Staying present in the moment with an open heart and supportive mind is a good place to start.

    We can also ask ourselves in any moment of stress or confusion, "What would God do?" and "What is the best for all concerned right now?"

    Thank you for your insight and heart,
    Lee

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