Commentary: Parents with young kids, how should we respond to the coronavirus? | Focus on the Family Australia
Commentary: Parents with young kids, how should we respond to the coronavirus?
By June Yong
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In fear or with confidence

14/02/2020

Over the past few weeks, many of us have been absorbing the news of the spread of the coronavirus like a horror movie slowly unfolding.

This story shared by a mum of a 5-month-old baby who is due for her vaccinations at the clinic captures the flood of emotions that many are experiencing.

“I’ve been anxious about sending my child for her jabs, and sometimes the anxiety is really overwhelming. ‘What if there’s an infected person at the clinic while we are there?’ ‘Should I just postpone the vaccination to be safe?’ These thoughts then lead on to other similar conundrums, such as ‘Should I let her go to church with us? Should I bring her out at ALL?? But then the more important questions follow: What values am I inculcating in my family? Am I fear-driven or faith-filled?

Some of us may have had similar thoughts in our heads, particularly those with very young children or an elderly person in their midst.

Apart from upping levels of personal hygiene practices in our homes, avoiding crowded places, and washing our hands religiously, how else can we respond to this threat of a potentially deadly disease?

Understanding who is on the driver’s seat

As parents, the fear of something unseen and unknown that could affect our children’s lives can lead us to react with raw emotion. This is perhaps due to our basic survival instincts, triggering our fight or flight responses.

We see this especially in situations that make us feel like we’re not in control. Such as when the stores run out of masks and hand sanitisers, when the childcare centre does not give us regular updates on the measures they are taking to ensure our kids’ well-being, or when we have to take compulsory leave of absence from our work.

These scenarios can be incredibly fear-inducing and frustrating.

“What if one of their classmates had recently returned from China or met with a virus-carrying relative?”

And then there is also social media, which tends to fan the flames of fear and anxiety given how rapidly news (whether accurate or false) about the virus spreads.

Bearing witness to, and keeping up with all the developments can be overwhelming.

With three primary school goers under my wing, I could literally feel my anxiety levels rising as the first day of school post-Chinese New Year approached.

“What if one of their classmates had recently returned from China or met with a virus-carrying relative?” The danger of one of them contracting the virus felt very real, and I struggled with letting them go.

Our focus shapes our response

What we train our minds on also guides our actions.

Because we are suddenly thrown into a world of fear and uncertainty, we find ourselves grasping at straws to try to make sense and order out of disorder.

Some hoard masks, leading the government to issue a call to use masks responsibly and only when we are unwell.

Others have begun to shun or even label Chinese nationals in their midst. With the recent news the first locally transmitted cases in Australia, more businesses may react by closing their businesses until fear levels drop.

But have we crossed the line from being anti-virus to anti-people-group?

Should we take a step back from all the bad news and ask ourselves: What kind of role model do I want to be to my children? And what values do I want to pass on to them?

Balancing fear by working together

It is in this space that we can also consider some of the facts surrounding the virus and the global situation.

Governments around the world are sharing crucial information about the virus in a concerted effort to work together to combat its spread. This includes most notably the Chinese government, although news has surfaced about how the country initially tried to downplay the situation.

According to this news article, Australia now has a response plan in place.

I’m not trying to use information and facts to fight our fears, but it helps to be aware of our fears and to express them in a healthy way, such as by sharing our concerns with loved ones and receiving information from trusted media sources.

To balance fear, we can also choose to respond in confidence and faith, trusting that our government and medical workers are doing the best that they can.

More importantly, we should also exercise vigilance as we go about our daily lives, taking precautions such as avoiding crowds, staying home if feeling unwell, washing our hands often, and coughing into our inner elbows or mask.

Such a health crisis can only abate if the whole of society works together – including governments, healthcare workers, and individuals like you and me.

If we stay calm and united, we will be in a better position to lead our children and our families out of this crisis.

Focus on the opportunities within the crisis

It will take time for vaccines to be developed, and for this virus to die down.

Until then, it would be best to keep our cool and stay united.

Sometimes, when I get overwhelmed, I think about our medical officers who are at the frontline. The sense of gratitude keeps me grounded.

If we stay calm and united, we will be in a better position to lead our children and our families out of this crisis.

Perhaps this is a wake-up call to shake us from our slumber. After all, many of us have grown used to a safe and organised society in Australia, naturally shielded from major disasters and has enjoyed economic stability through the years.

Just this past week, I realised how little I’ve taught the kids on proper cough etiquette (such as coughing into our inner elbow), and on how we should stay home and avoid infecting others if we are down with a bug.

We may have taken safety for granted in Australia, but now is the time to rise up and practise stringent hygiene habits. I’ve resorted to singing songs with my kids in the bathroom to instil the habit of washing their hands properly.

Within every crisis, there is an opportunity to grow.

I’m using this event as a motivation to exercise more often, eat healthier food, and spend more unhurried time with my kids at home — not just training them up academically, but also talking about values such as teamwork, our faith in God, and hope.

There may be many things outside of our control, but if we stay steadfast in this hour of need, we can develop the tenacity and resilience to tackle future challenges.

Think about: How will you use this crisis situation to teach your child an important value?

© 2020 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved. Altered for Australian localisation.

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