Last Friday, I was interviewed by a local journalist, Sam Laprade, about the mental health impact on children and youth of the war in Ukraine. Preparing for that interview, all I could think about was the stories of family members who had escaped from Poland to Canada during and after World War II. These relatives would inevitably become tearful, remembering people who had died and speaking of the homeland that they missed.
This was always the beginning, but the end of their stories was very different. At the end of their stories, they would remind you that they had endured. They had given up their precious possessions and fled their homeland, or some had remained to fight for the freedom of their homeland. Over the years, they would always remind listeners, they had endured.
Endurance is an important message that elders can give children in this time of war. Elders, with the wisdom of their lives behind them, are in the best position to give this message to all of us.
We will endure. It will be hard, but after hardship and trauma, those of us who survive will keep going, and work to rebuild a better world.
For many people, while you are going through hardship, even terrible hardship, working for a better future can be a stabilizing and emotionally calming factor.
At the same time, living through a terrible time requires that we find moments of happiness and peace. Living through a terrible time requires us to live in the moment. Peace can be a letter from a friend, a cup of tea with a neighbour, or even a few minutes with a loved one. I urge you to build all of these into your lives, and especially into your lives with your loved ones.
There is no doubt that your emotions will spill over into tears and maybe even hostility. Explain these to your children so that you do not frighten them and so that they know that they are not to blame for these emotions.
At then end of the month, I am planning a conversation with my colleagues at the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre to help parents and grandparents and other adults who care to find the best ways to help children and youth manage the emotional and mental turmoil of our times. Please consider joining me and bringing your own ideas.
I am looking forward to a good conversation, and hope to share a cup of tea with you.