Children of the pandemic
No one quite expected 2020 to go the way it did, least of all our children. Their innocent childhoods robbed off them by an invisible virus. A virus that their parents & carers try tirelessly to explain to them about, but how can you fully explain something you cannot see?
I would like to say I was prepared for this. Given that most of my time I’m explaining to others, about what it means to have a additional need that isn’t visible to the eye. So talking to my children about coronavirus should be doable to right?
But coronavirus was something that would come, and change everyone’s views about life. Whether it was how we felt about ourselves or others, or how we based our meaning of life. In some way every adult can say, that they have been affected by the pandemic. So what about the children? The pandemic has had a detrimental impact on their lives, but how do we measure that impact when it isn’t always clear to see?
No one really has any answers to that, because what we betray on our surface is what people gage their opinions on. I mean a lot of us can seem happy right?
My sons life has been impacted by coronavirus, but none more then the impact he is having on himself. The pandemic has taught him how to Mask. This maybe a term some are familiar with, but others may not of heard of.
Masking and camouflaging are terms used to describe neurodiverse individuals who seek to hide or minimize their autism traits to fit in with the neurotypical world.
My sons learnt that in a world full of changes if you put a smile on and act like the people around you, maybe no one will talk to you about it or remind you about the things that are changing around you that are causing you emotional stress. Because if you appear bothered, people will try to understand what it is that’s on your mind. So will ask questions that may further cause you to become anxious. So a smile can help to hide a bucketful of feelings. No one ever doubts a smile?
Some may not see the harm in this, but maybe I can help you to understand. When my son masks not only is he covering his feelings, these feelings that need to be addressed and validated and shown it’s ok to feel that way. So that he grows to understand that emotions are a healthy part of life. He is also burning himself out. Its mentally draining to pretend your ok to others, especially when the world around you is changing and you can’t control it. There’s a lot of questions that he needs answers to, but these are questions that no one has any answers to give. As his mum I feel heart broken that my son has to pretend at times to be happy, because the once innocent world around him has shown him how scary it can be. Plus I know that for however long he portrays to be happy, the burnout from that will soon follow. Which in itself is mentally draining.
But with the presence of masking, also brings the need for more structure and routine. Because at home my son can organise his life as he would want it. His home environment remains the one constant, that is unlikely to change. But so do the thoughts inside his head and how he organises them. His need for numbers has increased, along with him retaining & repeating pieces of information that he has picked up along the way.
Numbers has always been a key thing in my sons life. Because numbers are a constant that won’t change. The number 5 will always be 5 of something. It will never change its place in a number line it is something to rely on. Just like numbers are something he has come to rely on. Unfortunately numbers have replaced some of my role, as I’m not as reliable anymore as I cant change what’s going on in the world to help him. So once where our little conversations of the day would unfold, are now replaced with number questions and other information he has retained from listening/watching things. Because I just can’t provide the same conversations as before. Because so much has changed and I don’t have any answers as to why, or able to give him the same reassurance.
His social skills have decreased, as he enters a world of numbers a place where he feels content. His engagement with others mainly consists of a smile or greeting, followed by a number question or a fact he has learnt or maybe something about that day he knows is sure will happen. But he doesn’t tend to engage in anything more, unless prompted to by others which is then when he starts to mask. Which social engagement is how we can get comfort and reassurance from others. So I’m often wondering how isolated he must feel, despite my efforts to show him comfort and security the world has changed dramatically in year and I can honestly say for once I’m scared about the future. But the children of the pandemic are our future, and what we do now shapes their lives. So if it’s one thing I can ask of you all, it’s to take note of masking. Teach children about their emotions and promote open discussions about feelings. Be mindful of the children fighting big battles, as just because we can’t see something, it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.