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Narratives of Raising Resilient Children during the COVID-19 Pandemic



Nivatha Moothathamby & Agnes Wong

Narratives of Raising Resilient Children during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Exploring how changes in educational practices and policies impact children and parents.

"I hear you and I feel the same way"

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought high levels of stress for children and parents to continuously shift according to changes in educational practices and policies. Toronto children and parents provided insight into their current situations, hoping others shared similar narratives to not feel “alone.” Children want to play with their friends, while parents want their child to learn academic skills from professionals. These wants are affected by the current schooling changes. These changes are also steering people to learn how to build resilience, since it is crucial to maintaining well-being during a pandemic era. 

Resilience is usually thought of as an individual characteristic. It can also be viewed as distributed, part of a layered system with interconnections between people and social groups. For example, government policies are on the outer layer, the education system is in the middle layer, while school and family are in the inner layer. All these emphasize that a multi-layered approach is necessary to understand the person-environment interactions. Each person, practice or policy plays a significant role in a child’s resilience development. School closure challenges, such as virtual learning, school disengagement, and food insecurity, catalyze change in children. These catalysts work on how children behave and think about issues, which enables the growth of a child’s adaptive capacity. 

From our interviews, parents shared how their young children showed adaptability like learning to navigate virtual classrooms, build closer relationships with their siblings at home, and develop life skills such as cleaning, cooking, and baking.

“I like staying home to play with my brother and cook with grandma.” – a 4-year-old child 

Artwork by Arya Nithiyeswaran – 8-year-old child

Although it takes time, children can adapt according to their environments.

“I think that’s something that’s missing from the conversation around school closures and COVID is that, while the kids are losing precious information, parents are primary teachers of their kids. You can learn more by just baking a cake together or cleaning the house.” – Parent of 4-year-old child.

Although all individuals in different systems are working towards a common goal – the well-being of children – the lack of listening across these systems leads us to numerous frustrations. Toronto parents reported current practice and policy changes are stressful for their children, themselves, and even for grandparents. Some young children require extra help from extended family, like from grandparents, who struggle with navigating technology and the online school system, thus creating extra tensions within families. While there are increased COVID-19 risks, parents preferred their children being in-class to enhance their developmental trajectory.Parents reported:

  • Children age 4-6 are having trouble concentrating, participating, and attending online school
  • Parents having to become full-time teachers at home, while managing their own work-from-home situations 
  • Dealing with worries about children’s academic and social-emotional development 
  • Having schools and day care centres open would be the best option to help reduce pressure on children and parents

Through all these difficulties, parents expect actions of support from school boards and governments because when schools are reopening, parents are faced with both psychological and financial stress in finding sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) for their children. Rather than just saying, “we’re all in the same boat,” school boards and governments need to listen to the frustrations of the children, parents, and teachers because it works in reducing stress and improving resilience among them. From our interviews, parents reported high stress around acquiring quality masks for their children, which needed to be restocked on a weekly basis. PPE is expensive and some parents simply could not afford it. Supplying sufficient PPE for all children and educators is a mandatory need schools are expected to fulfill, according to parents. 

Yes, our children are resilient, they are battling through this global health crisis, but their resilience needs to be supported by the systems around them. Larger systems not hearing and supporting people’s frustrations makes it impossible for children to climb the mountain of challenges they face. What frustrations are you facing? What would help you prosper in these uncertain times?

“Alone we can do so little,together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

**Nivatha Moothathambyand Agnes Wong are researchers at the University of Toronto and are interestedin the fears associated with children, families, and COVID-19. They interviewed Toronto children and parents regarding their current experiences with schooling.

Edited by Jeffrey Lynham


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