In times of uncertainty

In times of uncertainty, our minds tend to race with many questions such as, 'What's going to happen? Will we be ok? When will things be back to 'normal'?'. These questions may lead to some pretty big emotions- fear, anger, sadness, maybe even denial. Our minds do this all the time, and they are generally pretty good at solving problems. Right now, COVID-19 is the challenge our brains are trying to solve.

We all know that challenges are part of life; that they are painful when we are in them and that all obstacles come, and all problems go. During times of significant challenge, we may forget that it is through trials that the young people in our lives and we develop resilience.

An analogy which has popped up on my feed lately, which fits perfectly with the beautiful environment where our school is located, is 'Strong like a tree.' Each one of us can be like a tree with the challenges that we are currently facing acting as the wind. You see, trees stand firm because of their root system. Trees develop more durable root systems when they are exposed to the wind because it helps their roots grow deeper, which in turn allows the tree to grow taller. It is a strong wind that helps them grow stronger. So, what are our roots? They are our values, our beliefs, our support systems. Finding opportunities to connect and enact these in times of challenge enables us to persevere through whatever the problem is and come out on the other side. While we may not be able to enact all of these, in the same ways we usually do, we can find different means. If one of the things we value is spending time with grandparents, we could use FaceTime to connect with them. If we are focusing on the value of physical health, we might look around the house to find some creative ways to get our heart rates up, continue to eat healthily, and stick to our regular sleep routines.

The big questions our minds throw at us during these times are also in the minds of our young people for whom it may be even more overwhelming. Clinical Psychologist Kirrilie Smout has provided some guidance on how to answer questions that young people may raise with us. The link to Kirrilie's Developing Minds website is included below; however, the main points are to:

  • Ask a question or two to check what their concerns are before responding to the concern raised (e.g., What makes you worried about that? Or Is there something in particular about this which is especially upsetting?)
  • Express care and sympathy
  • Be a matter of fact, calm, and confident with your answer (e.g., Grandpa/Nanna/X/Y is doing lots of things to stay healthy at the moment – for example, they are...)
  • Provide a small amount of information
  • Put limits on the amount of time you spend talking about COVID-19 (i.e., short periods of talking and then distract and refocus)

In the three years that I have been at Woodleigh, what stands out the most is the available support, and the generosity shown by others. In times of need, we come together, and I'd encourage you to continue to support those around you, to stay generous, to stay positive, and to stay grounded just like that great oak or pine tree.

Educational and Developmental Psychologist