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Helping our children to grow

Opinion Piece

I've just had a conversation with my eight and six year olds about starting back at school next week, which has compelled me to share my “five cents” worth.

Be mindful of a child who held school as their other safe space and wonders why they closed. I beg you as a parent to have those deep and beautifully-gritty conversations, giving the best knowledge that you have and can make available for your child, so they can make sense of Covid-19; the effect on our small community, other communities, different countries and the world.

Your children will grow; the family can grow together. Watch the daily announcements with them, keeping in mind that you may need to reword some things so they can make sense of this pandemic.

As a country we have done so much since this outbreak to protect them — it would cement their learning foundations for them to understand why, don't you agree?

I have done this nearly every day, and the impact is staggering.

First, to see my eight and six year olds have conversations of fear. Pickup after school pre-lockdown, my children were worried they could turn into zombies because a “big kid” said that's what the virus was . . . can you imagine the impact of your child thinking this?

Then to learn the next week they weren't allowed to go to the dairy on the corner of our street which they often visited, including every Saturday to get their lolly fix; they have been missing the man behind the counter.

To learn no school, no visits to the park, no shopping in town, no takeaways; and even more heartbreaking, no more beach, given we visited it almost daily.

At first it was hard to make sense of it all myself, in order to give the best possible picture for my children — to give them the chance to see what this looks like, and where to from here.

I decided to get real and show them the live announcements.

The conversations humbled me, even to the point we cried for the people who passed away and the saddening thought they couldn't have a big funeral like my dad's, their papa's. Their whanau couldn't go in line to get a kiss and a hongi from all the nannies, family and friends in front of the marae.

My children's sense of compassion and empathy dumbfounded me. Even more, their understanding that this couldn't happen because we can't take the risk of anyone getting sick. Yes it is sad, but these are sad times.

These conversations are a daily.

I have worked with them through their learning but not prioritised their learning online and books from the Ministry of Education. I have found that including them in this journey of Covid-19 has brought far more learning.

For my six year old to compliment Dr Ashley Bloomfield on the way he talks, how it makes him feel like he's talking to him; and my daughter to say Jacinda Ardern explains things very well so that she can understand . . . also, thanking both for the Easter Bunny announcement.

The efforts that parents and caregivers have put in with their children's learning and understanding will show over the next few months, especially for our teachers.

Please do not let your child think there is a zombie virus, like on Xbox. The last thing we need are scared, anxious children going to school. I'm sure as parents we would all agree that our children should be confident, assured, safe and happy role-model citizens who are up to date with some of our current affairs.

Christina D'Urdy