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Ongoing debates and never ending discussions are happening right now to come to a consensus to re-open schools. It is safe, it is not safe; we are sure, we are not sure; can I decide to send my child to school or not; are the children safe or are they at risk if they go back to school; are they super spreader of COVID-19 virus or there is no risk of the children to transmit the disease?
These are among so many comments made, questions asked by the grown up who are trying to make an important decision on behalf of the children. It looks like a dysfunctional family where parents are in great disagreement and fighting in front of the children. The children don’t have a say in this but observe anxiously what would be the outcome.
They might have a great deal of feelings and ideas about the impact of making them feel responsible if they go back to school and spread the disease and cause more pain and loss to everyone.
Adults have a great responsibility to get it as right as possible, but what if they get it completely wrong? The only part who is not involved in this process is the child, it seems that no one is even thinking about the mental health and psychological well-being of children who are caught between this major grown-ups disagreement debating, arguing and even fighting over a serious issue which very much involves them.
Logically, it makes a lot of sense for schools to re-open as quickly as possible, but is it safe when we are still in a very unknown territory in relation to this killer virus which in some scientific views is the children best friend; does not affect them as much as adults, does not kill them and only targets adults, etc. The children can only infect and helping the enemy to spread further and kill more. How do you feel if you are a child in this situation and science says that you are helping this killer virus, enemy to kill even more?
Also, have the responsible adults at every level are thinking about how this fight between them is affecting the children who don’t have a voice in this? How if the wrong decision is made will impact on children’s trust on grown ups who need to protect them? Does anyone understand and knows how the children are affecting by all these conflicting views, differences, and opposing scientific evidences? Has anyone thought about how the anxiety that some parents are experiencing now is affecting the children and in fact the whole family?
What if the wrong decision is made and children spread the virus much further causing more sickness and death among grown ups including their teachers, family members? How would children feel and how the blame and responsibility will impact their mental health and their trust on adults including their parents and the wider context?
This reminds me of a ‘system blindness’, Daniel Goleman states: ‘One of the worst results of system blindness occurs when leaders implement a strategy to solve a problem – but ignore the pertinent system dynamics.
‘It’s insidious,’ says John Sterman. ‘You get short-term relief, and then the problem comes back, often worse than before. The problem gets compounded by what’s called the “illusion of explanatory depth“where we feel confidence in our understanding of a complex system, but in reality have just superficial knowledge.’
The conflicting information about children developing deadly symptoms related to COVID-19 is very confusing and it is evident that, how as a result of this everyone, including those in power cannot think clearly, provide a valid, scientifically informed argument and convince all who are concerned about the wrong decision being made.
I was shocked when I observed a mother of a 4 year old child using his little fingers in a cash machine to get money out of the machine. She perhaps was thinking that it is safe to use her son’s little fingers to protect herself from catching the virus. This is only one example of how adults are behaving during the pandemic to protect themselves by using the children who may not be affected the same as them. But is this the reality?
Image credit: Freepik
Zohreh Rahimi is a clinical psychologist, family and systemic psychotherapist, and a clinical manager working at Freedom form Torture.