Whitewashing Wellness – Mixed Messages Our Children Are Receiving and What to Do About It 

It’s been 7 weeks since I last published a post. I stress the word published because I have started a dozen posts, only to shelve them for numerous reasons. Either the information changed, the suggestions were irrelevant, or the content just didn’t feel significant during this time. I have branded posts that I delayed because I couldn’t get them out. I won’t suggest being lazy, or that I have been procrastinating because that is not the case. The reality is I have been incapable of finishing my work. My mental health is currently being tested.

Taking care of my family has been priority number one. As a mama, I have accepted with gratitude that I am in this role of motherhood and it’s a very important role, now more than ever. Parenting has always been a monumental task. Except now we, as parents, are being pulled in even more directions, with our health and wellbeing at the forefront of even our basic decisions. That creates an everyday environment of a ton of feelings, many of which are unsettling.

Depending on where you live, each province in Canada is mandating different regulations for the continued rise in COVID-19 cases, now considered to be in its second wave. While some provinces with low numbers can continue to run their economy, larger cities with bigger populations are struggling as facilities shut down to limit the spread.

In Quebec, the rise in cases has gone from roughly 80 new cases per day to over a 1000, since the opening of schools in September. Each and every day, there are new positive cases being reported in schools, with now 1002 schools that have at least one positive case reported. My last post addressed the concerns I had for schools reopening, and as you can see based on this information, I had reason for my concern. As it stands, the ministry has still not listened to the concerns of parents and there is no choice for distance learning in Quebec. If the option to distance learn was given to students, classrooms would automatically become less crowded, and social distancing would be possible. Unfortunately, right now it is not, and months into this pandemic we know that social distancing is a key element in limiting the spread of the virus. We also know mask wearing is another key element, and still in elementary schools, it is still not mandatory for students in grade four and younger to wear a mask.

The Impact on Our Wellbeing

While this may come as a shock to some, I truly do not want schools to shut down. I am fully aware that there are families that have parents who are essential workers, and those children need to be in school. I am also aware that some families depend on school to provide one or two meals to their child each day, which is not just essential, it is critical for that child’s wellbeing. Additionally, there are many different scenarios where a child thrives in a school setting and would struggle at home when it comes to learning. The bottom line is that (as schools were very recently accepting) not all children learn the same way. Add to that, that not all children handle stress the same way, and you might see where I am going with this.

Specifically, here in Quebec, we have been told by various forms of government that children being in school is the top priority. We have been made to believe that schools must remain open for the wellbeing of the children, because children thrive in a social environment. And while I understand that schools must remain open, I am by no means falling for the notion that all children are having a grand old time at school right now.

I can tell you from personal experience, my children are not sleeping well, my twins wake up in the night, one twin complains of a stomach ache each morning. Children are being told to go to school and “ça va bien aller” – it will be ok. But most children are fully aware of what is going on. They know mom and dad are working from home because it is safer, or maybe mom or dad lost a job because their business had to shut down for safety reasons. They cannot see their grandparents because it might get them very sick. But for some reason, going to school, in a bubble that is broken the moment they leave their classroom is considered ok. Many students have voiced their concern, some with petitions to sign, others with walk-outs during school hours, and still others on the news explaining what it’s really like at school.

Children are starting to show virus-like symptoms more frequently as flu season starts up and the weather changes. With the number of new cases at such a high number, as well as ICU patients on the rise, the health care system is being stretched.  The threat of it being stretched to its absolute maximum with hospitals reaching their capacity is very real.

So, what can we do?

I have been feeling deflated more so than usual, because I do not believe the ministry of education is listening to its community, and I do not feel they have everyone’s best interest or health in mind. That hasn’t stopped me from continuing to voice my opinion and reaching out to higher authorities. Like so many current events surfaced in a tidal wave of global wrong-doing spotlighted due to this pandemic, one thing has been made brutally clear, we must continue to stand up for what we know to be fair and just.

  • Keep reaching out to the school your child attends. Find out what you can do to help at school or at home.
  • Have conversations with your children about how they really feel at school. Do not ignore their emotional distress because “we must keep going”. They are handling a stress, most likely greater than they have ever experienced in their young lives. Depending on their age and personality, they might not be great at expressing how they feel about it. Make decisions in your family on how to handle the news, education inside and outside of school, and the wellbeing of each family member.
  • Taking a wellness day is a real and valid thing to do. Whether it is for you, for your child, or for both of you. This was something I believed in pre COVID-19.
  • Connect with your city mayor, your education department, your city news. Keep asking questions and keep suggesting a change that feels right and safe for everyone.
  • Wear a mask – make this a priority and make it the new normal with your children. Explain this is necessary to keep others safe. On this note, keep discussing the concept of social responsibility with them. (And please explain to your kids the science behind wearing a mask and others around them not wearing a mask – this is important and still misunderstood).
  • Normalize social distancing and with that, normalize new ways to socialize. Don’t eliminate friends and family, just find new ways to connect with them. We will be in this for a while, so we need to adjust our lifestyles to include the people we need in our lives.

For more suggestions, expert interviews and thoughts on wellness in the family, I encourage you to check out my Wellness section under Healthy Living (click here, or above). Family wellbeing is something I feel is deeply important, and something that can sometimes be put aside for various reasons. During this very strange, uncertain and confusing time, checking in with our child’s wellbeing is, I believe, as essential as everything we are being told to practice for our health and safety right now.

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