Shelja Sen is co-founder of Children First, a child and adolescent mental health institute, and author of Imagine: No Child Left Invisible; All You Need is Love: The Art of Mindful Parenting; Reclaim Your Life: Going Beyond Silence, Shame and Stigma in Mental Health.
Keeping the overwhelming tragedy aside, maybe COVID might help us to dream of a brave new world – our very own Zihuatanejo where we can let go of the memory of our stale old world which had literally started rotting and stinking.
Imagine: It reminded me of A Letter to the UK from Italy by the writer Francesca Melnadri, “Old resentments and falling-outs will seem irrelevant. You will call people you had sworn never to talk to ever again, so as to ask them: ‘How are you doing?’"
Imagine: The families that I have met have talked about how they are doing things they had forgotten brought them so much joy – goofing around with their children without any agenda, spending time in nature.
Preference for solitude and quiet is a way of being and not an illness. Many times, through repeated messages that we give an introverted child, he might become shy as he starts thinking something is wrong with him and therefore fears social rejection.
We are trying to buy our way out of misery, but paradoxically, getting more stuck than ever. I am sure you will remember your childhood when old sofas were refurbished, furniture repaired, clothes passed on from older to younger and everything used until it was threadbare and turned into dusters.
Let’s start by becoming more mindful of our language. Just observe the words we use to praise little girls — “gentle”, “nice”, “sweet” and the ubiquitous “good girl”; and for boys — “strong”, “tough”, “brave”.
It is only when they feel valued, loved and safe in a relationship that children can even be open to coaching. A red light is for behaviours that need a zero-tolerance, non-negotiable approach. The yellow light could be for habits the child is still learning to master.
There are many children who are shy, scattered, disorganised, dreamers, clumsy and noisy. They might still have huge reservoirs of creativity, talent, ability, generosity, etc, but all that is lost behind cobwebs of mis-wiring that keep them from connecting and showing their sparkle.