Becoming Everyday Heroes
OpED by Sachin Tendulkar, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for South Asia
A heart-warming childhood memory is that of the family sitting down to watch a movie on television and my mother covering my eyes when a particularly violent or distressing scene would appear on screen. Of course, that would make me more curious to watch and I would try to move her hand away unsuccessfully! This natural instinct of parents to protect their child from something distressing is something that is wired into parents’ brain. Science has now shown that early experiences shape a child’s development. This is especially true of the first six years of life, when the brain grows at the fastest pace, determining to a large extent how happy and healthy an individual grows up to be. In fact, fresh evidence indicates that exposure to negative emotions in early childhood can have negative effects on a child’s emotional development.
Today, the world is facing a pandemic. In this atmosphere of fear and uncertainty, with pre-schools and schools shut, families cooped up, movement restricted, reports of job loss, reduced incomes and stress of working from home taking a toll, everybody is under stress including parents. However, this is the time for parents to become stronger as they have the additional responsibility to guide their children.
This is the time for parents to rise up to the challenge and not let the stress, anxiety and other negative emotions reach the children. This is the time to practice ‘positive parenting’.
It is our responsibility to provide a positive, nurturing environment and hand-hold and guide our children through crises such as this pandemic and help them to emerge more resilient. This pandemic is an opportunity to engage with our children and strengthen the bond by acting as mentors and facilitators, as against strict dictators. We need to understand a child’s emotions and give them space to express themselves freely. If a child throws a tantrum or behaves badly, before reacting in anger, pause and give yourself a moment. It may be the child’s way of expressing fear, stress or worry about the situation, which they find difficult to express otherwise. In any case, one should avoid resorting to verbal or physical punishment.
Children will have questions about COVID-19 and we should answer their queries taking into account how much they can grasp. Even if they do not have questions, explain. If they ask the same questions repeatedly, know that they are seeking reassurance and be patient. If you do not know the answers to their questions, seek those out. Millions of parents are going through the same anxieties, but while supporting your child, do not forget to take care of yourself. Your emotionally stable self as a parent, is the most precious gift to your child.
A patient ear, a soothing pat, a warm hug, and a gentle peck for your young child today can help them grow into stronger, kinder individuals who can support and appreciate one another. Our young children still look up to us for that one reassuring gesture from ‘Papa’ and ‘Maa’ and others in the family. After all, no matter how disrupted the outside world is, for children, parents are their ‘everyday heroes’. So even if we don’t wear a cape, let’s be there for them every day in every way!