The long-term impact on kids of an unprecedented, worldwide, unstoppable bio-calamity?
Yes, that does seem worth pondering. But before we go any further, let me just say, truthfully: Your kids are built to weather even this.
Of course, there are a ton of variables, the biggie being, uh, The Biggie. You know. Health. But assuming that is not exactly what you’re asking about, let’s discuss whether this whole episode is going to saddle your kids with some sort of unshakable post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Let's rise to the occasion during the coronavirus crisis.
The surprising and underreported truth, according to Dr. Samantha Boardman, founder of PositivePrescription.com and assistant attending psychiatrist at Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City, is that “people do very well in the face of trauma. We think of resilience as being kind of the exception, but it’s much more the rule.” The majority of people emerge from a crisis without PTSD and often with it’s good-twin opposite: post-traumatic growth, a new appreciation of life.
That sounds kind of Pollyanna-ish, but guess what? Pollyanna—the fictional character who remained gratingly upbeat on almost every page—actually got it kind of right, says John Tierney, coauthor of the new book The Power of Bad: How the Negativity Effect Rules Us and How We Can Rule It.
Pollyanna plays the “glad game,” figuring out how to be glad about every gosh darn thing. For example, one time she desperately wishes for a doll and receives, instead, a pair of crutches. Crutches! But then, playing her glad game, she realizes, she’s actually GLAD because these remind her she doesn’t NEED crutches. Woo-hoo!
Later on, guess what? (Think: FORESHADOWING.) But even when she becomes paralyzed from the waist down, she thinks about how glad she was that she’d HAD working legs.
Or course the whole thing is fiction, and your kids don’t have to be anywhere near as insufferably sunny. The point is that psychologists have discovered that most of us have a subtle glad game going on in the far reaches of our minds. We are capable of reframing many bad events as somehow pretty good, or at least for the best. What’s more: When we have gone through something very hard, we also discover how much we can handle. “Being able to surmount a challenge gives you confidence in the future,” Tierney says.
We all have the ability to exercise our resilience.
In the meantime, one thing that can make anyone feel better as we slog through this quarantine is to try what Boardman calls “active, engaged coping.” So if you can get your kids to do something that is kind, or grown-up, it will make them feel good. For instance, they could help out (even just a bit) around the house or do something nice for the world, like entertain someone else’s kid via Skype. It’s always true that when you help someone else, you end up feeling better yourself.
Once this whole disaster is in the rearview mirror, which it will be someday, the most long-term effect on your kids may be their new status as proud Call of Duty masters, or the fact they like going outside more than they used to, or even not taking food, or fun, or friends for granted.
That’s not Pollyanna talking. It’s your friend Lenore, who has witnessed the resilience deep inside us all, kids included.
See our Ask Lenore about how to keep kids entertained during the coronavirus crisis right here.
Ask Lenore features advice from Let Grow's President, Lenore Skenazy. Send your questions and stories to her at AskLenore@LetGrow.org.