Basset Hound or Border Collie? Not all kids are the same. Be Kind.

I am writing this post because it is important that we all remember that families come in all sorts and sizes and how they hunker down to do social distancing is not the same for everyone.

I have seen some excellent but also a few trite posts about how to entertain your kids during this “time”. There are also strong opinions from people who clearly aren’t parents.

As many of us in Fort McMurray know, there is nothing normal or easy about your child not being able to attend school for a month or two before summer vacation. We experienced this during the wildfire. While that time had different challenges, one thing was the same – we were all “out of routine” for at least five weeks.

It won’t be easy and much of it may not be fun. Yes, some positive memories can be made of it. But if you aren’t coping well, know you aren’t alone. There will be stress on families. The fabric of some families will tear apart.

Please remember that all kids aren’t the same. For those parents struggling with children’s special needs – whether they be mental, physical, or behavioural, losing the routine of school and in a lot of cases, the strong supports provided there, will be devastating.

Yes, people will cope. There isn’t a lot of choice. For some parents, rather than looking forward to weeks of “family time” , they have begun to mourn the loss of teachers, teachers’ aids, school specialists, and just the respite offered to parents by having their kids attend school.

Second, please remember that not all kids are safe in their own families. This likely flows from inter-generational trauma, but it doesn’t change the fact that school was a safe place for them, and the additional stresses on families can make things worse.

Not everyone will have their kids do online courses. Not everyone will have a schedule. Not everyone will “just let kids have fun” and some may need a military-style command post centre. Not everyone is the same.

Some of us are simply basset hounds living with a pack of border collies! For these families, and the ones above, a pack of crayons and a colouring book are just not going to f*ing cut it. Be kind if you see some moms standing on the porch with a stop watch eyeing her kids run around the block ten times!

As we roll into the weeks ahead, think of how you can support those families – deliver food, offer respite (safely), or simply offer a kind word or a sympathetic ear.

Please don’t shame parents who do things differently to cope. Please don’t trivialize the struggles. Please understand that one set of coping strategies does not fit all families.

Most of all, please be kind and understanding.

Alisa Caswell is an engineer and a writer living in northern Alberta. 

[1] Photo by Maximiliano Ignacio Pinilla Alvarado from Pexels