In about 40 years of my work experience, and a bit more of life experience, I have faced numerous crises, including war. Going trough them with my clients and my loved ones, I learned a lot.

The crisis causes a feeling of insecurity in all of us. When we face completely unknown and often unforeseen circumstances, we don’t know what to think or how to react. When a sense of uncertainty and danger unites, our need to establish personal emotional security is heightened:  we need reliable information, clear directions and guidelines, “light at the end of the tunnel”…

The same needs have our children. They need clear information about what’s going on, presented to them in accordance to their age and capacity to understand. They need a clear message from parents that we love them and that we will always be there for them, as well. They also need a clear message that they have the right to all emotions in this crisis situation, that there are no “right and wrong” feelings, and that we will allow them to express all their feelings, fears and worries without negating and minimizing it, but rather talking about them.

Our children need safe and flexible parents now, just as we need strong, secure and clear public service leadership with some flexibility.

Now that there is no fast-paced life, at least in the way we are used to, we realize that activity, productivity, play, enjoyment and sharing are still possible, but in a different way from what we have observed so far.

We are all vulnerable and need warmth and connection

Crisis times make us aware of our equalities – regardless of age, gender, marital status, material security. We all long for cohesion and unity. The sense of control is impaired, further increasing dependence on others. This is why social relationships become even more important, and we become more aware of the greater need for warmth and connection with others.

Let us be an example to our children

In times of crisis, we attach great importance to people who serve the community, who are often unnoticed in the “normal” life…  We admire acts of kindness, and more often we lend a helping hand, we care for the common good, we express empathy and pay attention to humanity. Priority is given to shared values – collaboration, consideration and concern, while individualistic values, such as prestige, popularity and power, lose importance.

We have the capacity to deal with crises and recovery, for empathy and solidarity

Now is the time to affirm and to act on fundamental human and moral values. This is a time to focus on our family and community. We have the ability to overcome situations like this.

Although we feel a loss of control, there is still a lot we can do, both for individual and collective empowerment. We are creative, adaptable beings, able to find meaning, develop strategies for dealing with frustration, ways of coping and organizing life.

We are more resilient than we realize. Yes, we are imprisoned in our homes to suppress the spread of the virus, some in temporary homes after the earthquake… But this is a moment to realize that virus is not the only contagious thing – there are solidarity, empathy, warmth, understanding, respect… and love, that are cantagious, too.

It is our responsibility and the choice what social role will we take, using the resources and strengths that we have. Taking care of ourselves is necessary, and taking care of others is possible even from isolation.

Let’s be better to each other

I absolutely agree with prof. Alemka Markotić, PhD, MD, who said a few days ago: “In situations like this, we should all think about priorities in life. About being better to each other, and about not making some material things our highest priority in the world”.

During the Homeland War in Croatia, as a young psychologist, I was impressed with the dedication, empathy, and solidarity of many citizens, associations, organizations, volunteers, and professionals in helping the needy. I have the same feeling these days, seeing many citizens “back on their feet” again, helping, going to the elderly, offering food and housing, domesticating the pets of the victims… Given the experience of working and helping in crisis situations, we mental health professionals immediately became active, opened counseling lines, wrote psychoeducational texts, started support campaigns … I am especially proud of the staff of the Zagreb Child and Youth Protection Center who selflessly engaged themselves in writing numerous texts and advice for parents and children, became involved in cooperation with the media, organized a campaign and research, and on the very day of the earthquake in Zagreb (that they suffered too) they wrote guidelines to parents on how to deal with these traumatic events.

Although in these times of crisis many of us prioritize helping others, especially children, let’s give ourselves the right to feel fragile, vulnerable, helpless, anxious, frustrated… Let’s admit that we ourselves may need others to help us, and that at the same time we have the capacity to cope with stress and crisis situations and recovery, and the capacity for empathy and solidarity that we have shown in times of crisis. That is why, despite the current crisis, we can rightly count on our strengths, our own resilience, our fellowship and our solidarity, and these are the threads from which we can express our optimism.

 

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