As days continue to pass and we attribute another day on the calendar to lockdown, it is easy for our hope to turn to apathy as we long for how things used to be. We long for the normal way of doing things and as the government delays decisions and pushes back timelines we push our hope into a box, tape it closed and shove it into a corner to be forgotten about.
We get frustrated with how slow we are moving forward. We get upset with the system for allowing us to go back to work (under strict guidelines and new procedures) whilst our children still have to stay at home. Now comes the frustration of having to ‘make a plan’ for a babysitter, someone who can also do some home-schooling and clean the house because the helper isn’t allowed back into our homes either.
Day after day during this unique time it is easy to lose sight of the ‘good’. It becomes easy to get frustrated with our boss and irritated with our spouse. It is easier to leave the kids to their demise than to connect them to an online classroom. We simply say, “our network is down” or “our WIFI keeps losing connection”. Eight weeks in and this is not so much fun anymore. The puzzle on the table is still not finished, dust on the top cupboard gathers as we clean the basics, the dining room table is littered with school books and papers, office supplies and laptops – so we eat by the TV where there is now a stain on the couch from the pasta sauce the night before. How are we meant to be hopeful in a time such as this?
We hope because we are South African. We hope because it is in our blood. We hope because we can see a better tomorrow. Hope is the expectation and desire for what is to come, it is a nation that will celebrate when infections stop and small businesses reopen. A people that celebrate the return of all workers to the workplace no matter what their title or position. Friends that celebrate with a warm embrace as they sit around a fire for a shared meal. Hope for our family during lockdown means approaching that mistake with a gentle discussion instead of a shout. It means counting to 10 in my head instead of snapping back in frustration and it means saying sorry when I do. Hope means sharing stories with my kids of people who are remarkable and kind in our community and being generous too. Hope means celebrating the recovery rates rather than focusing on the death toll.
Self-talk is something that is crucial during this time and is described as your internal dialogue. It is influenced by your subconscious mind, and it reveals your thoughts, beliefs, questions, and ideas. Self-talk can be both negative and positive. It can be encouraging, and it can be distressing. Much of your self-talk depends on your personality. If you’re an optimist, your self-talk may be more hopeful and positive. The opposite is generally true if you tend to be a pessimist. Having a more positive outlook on life can provide you with some serious health benefits and a better attitude towards life's challenges. It is important to evaluate your self-talk during this time. What words are you using to describe a global pandemic? How do you approach conversations related to your child's academic progress and achievements as they learn online? How do you describe the government's lockdown regulations as you watch the news? Children are sponges and mirrors. They absorb everything we say and reflect everything we do.
Our hope is strongly linked to our ability to see past the negative and to find the positive. We play a very active role in keeping hope alive, especially in modelling hope to our own children and those that we teach through self-talk. The language that we use can foster hope and a future, or destroy it. As I mentioned before, children mirror our behaviour, so if you are stressed, anxious and negative most of the time, chances are that your child will be too. Therefore it is important to be role models to our children in instilling hope during this challenging season, especially through our self-talk. As teachers, I know that you are afraid that you won't get through the school curriculum and that some learners will fall behind. As parents, you may keep telling your child to work and study harder because of online learning. It is important to use your words and interactions carefully. Stressing how much you need to get through in today’s lesson or reminding children that they are behind only fosters fear and anxiety. Remember that change impacts everyone, whether you are 5 or 50 years old - this is as challenging and stressful for them as it is for you!
As lighthouses and hope bearers, it is important to remind yourself what you are hopeful for and hold onto the stories of hope and the victories you have already seen and heard. It is important to use positive self-talk and approach each challenge with optimism. You have the power and potential to instil hope or fear in your children and those around you. Hope fosters resilience and confidence; fear promotes dependency and uncertainty. How would you like your children to experience the world?
As we reframe our thoughts and reflect on our ways, I encourage you to dig deep and find those stories of hope around you and within you. After all, that is what we as South Africans were born to do - HOPE.
Stay safe, stay positive and stay hopeful!