Reality Bites the Lifespan
Jay M. Greenfeld, Ph.D., C. Psych
We march our way through the Fall with what many throughout the province are labeling this current phase in life as a return to some sort of normalcy. However, as we know, COVID continues to surge throughout the province, yet for the most part a lesser strain of the virus. With this apparent return to our pre-COVID routines, reality is setting in for many that life can resume. As much as we want everything to resume and return to what we all consider comfortable, routine, and familiar, reality has another version of the story for all of us to pay attention to without letting denial be on the forefront. The reality that has slowly set in for so many (whether or not it is acknowledged), is that a significant amount of growth and change has occurred at different stages of the lifespan since March of 2020. It may seem as though it is only 2-3 years, how much can really change for all of us? The reality that has become more apparent is that gas prices have become inflated, groceries have soared and product availability within many industries has become scarce or unavailable. However, the more significant change is within and between ourselves as a population.
Since we have not had major gatherings in sometime, not had routine engagements with others in many years, and not been able to engage in our routine socializing for so long, it has led life to pass almost in a fast forward version across the lifespan. Births have happened and most people could not visit their new born family members until the child had become a toddler and on the other end of the continuum, loved ones have passed and were often not given the proper respectful open service they deserved. Moreover, it is also everything in between as one generation is slowly passing, there is another generation of people that prior to COVID were in their own place and now three years later they start to define the senior population. Similarlily, the babies born just prior to COVID are now going into nursery schools and daycares while learning to write and read. Often times we are so consumed with everything we need to do and where we need to go, which activity we need to be attending, and which friend we have to text, we tend to forget or deny the rapid rate of what is changing around us. As a result of this lack of acceptance, we repress our own thoughts and feelings related to the change and instead focus on the next task.
The key to embracing this new reality that we all live in and accepting the truth about the rapid changes in our youngest generation of children and oldest generation of parents is that we need to slow down. One reference that has been helpful for many is In the Praise of Slow: Challenging the Cult of Speed by: Carl Honore emphasizes the need for our society to slow down and focus on the most important aspects and people in our lives, especially the ones we have not been able to see for some time. If our population is getting older, so are the children that will be defining the future for us. Thus, rather than avoid the feelings attached to the reality we live in, process them, help your children identify them and their affiliated experiences. Take the time to slow down and spend the time with your children to inquire how much they have grown since the start of the pandemic. Most importantly, outwardly express to them YOUR own experiences with the growth or changes that you have observed and the feelings affiliated with that reality you are facing.
As you continue to embrace the new reality of people changing and their roles in your life, it is another reminder to not over schedule your children as time already passes too fast, no need to accelerate that process with too many rigid schedules and activities that is both in school and out of school. There has been a significant focus on the importance of raising free-range animals for healthy lives, but yet many of the children we are raising are so tightly scheduled that they are not living free-range lives. As a result of the intense focus on academics, registering for every activity on the planet, and limiting the free-play that is available that is not a video gaming system, we are not giving our children a true chance to grow freely. The key here is to acknowledge that you want to be involved in as many steps in your children's lives as possible, but you also do not want to be taking and making the steps for them. Accept the reality that they are much older now years after the pandemic started and they can be significantly more independent than you have once thought. Similarly, on the other end of the continuum your parents or elder relatives may not be as capable of doing the things that you once thought were automatic. A resource that may help you explore this notion is Free-Range Kids: How Parents and Teachers Can Let Go and Let Grow by Lenore Skenazy. These are the reasons why we clog the parks and rec reservations site to book camping sites or eagerly try to rush out to the lakes and beaches throughout the summer. However, we can arrange for these adventures, but the key is follow through so when these activities happen, you are taking the time to stop, slow down, and appreciate the stage of life you and your family are at.
As you move through this new school year and you have a goal of returning to some degree of normalcy and consistency, accept that life is changing and so are the people in it. Generations of both children and adults are in fact getting older, more capable and independent at the early stages of life while others are more dependent and sometimes less capable at the latter stages of life. Identify the feelings affiliated with these changes in your own reality across the lifespan. Take the time to slow down and pay attention to where you are at. Explore with your children where they feel they are at so that you have a much more accurate grip on the reality we now live in. We have already had enough restricted from us since March of 2020, it is time to pay closer attention, release our own psychological restrictions so we can truly live freer, less negative, and more rational, accepting and embracing the time we have with every generation across the lifespan.
Reality Bites the Lifespan
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