I live in Lenasia with my 79-year-old mom. The two of us live alone. I am a Grade 1 primary school educator in Lenasia. I also am the host of my own talk show on Radio Islam International every Saturday morning. I am also a life coach, a motivational speaker, professional MC and volunteer with a humanitarian organisation.
Initially, when I heard about the coronavirus lockdown, I was a little anxious, because with all the things I do, I’m always out. But I’m actually enjoying this moment. It has given me a lot of time to reflect on who and what is important to me. I am accepting this moment as the will of God, despite all the conspiracy theories going around. It has also given me time to get closer to the Almighty, and closer to the most important person in my life, who is my Mom.
As Muslims, we have five obligatory prayers at specific times. With work on a “normal” day, I’m not always punctual in my prayer times. In lockdown, I’m able to pray on time and even make time to read the Quran for a longer period. With my mom, because I’m so busy with the things I do, sometimes she comes with me. Now we talk, we cook together, we watch movies together. And believe it or not, when we are in the kitchen together, we dance! And we sing! And we have a lot of quality time. I needed this time to prioritise!
I’ve been teaching for close to 20 years. I’m blessed to work with the best resources that God could ever give you, and that’s children! Of course, parents are very nervous right now, with homeschooling, feelling they are lagging with the academic work. But what I am saying to everyone is that your child’s mental state and emotional wellbeing is of much greater importance than their academic performance right now. Of course, we don’t know what’s going to happen. We need to live one day at a time. But if you have concerns, try and not discuss it in front of your children, whether they are 6, 16, or 21. They pick up on your negative energy and that leads to panic and anxiety. Instead, use this time to make your child feel safe, and know that they are going to be OK. Yes, there will be time for school work. We understand that. But don’t turn your home into a school. It’s a home, and it is a safe haven.
Your child is living through history. Decades from now, when they are talking about the lockdown and the coronavirus to their children, they are not going to be speaking about “I had to do my maths. I had to work on my geography.” No, they are going to talk about how their families helped them feel safe and secure. During the lockdown, I started concentrating on my health. I’ve been working out, I have a treadmill. I’ve lost three kilograms! The most important person I’ve made time for is ME during this time. That’s going to give me energy when I go back to the classroom. When it comes to missing weeks of schoolwork, as teachers we are no stranger to that. We’ve had issues between the unions and the department — we were once on strike for 28 days. Our education department is very geared up. We have contingency plans in place, and as educators we are trained to deal with the backlogs.
That’s why my plea when I talk to parents is to take care of the emotional state of your child. We want healthy, happy, secure, enthusiastic children back in our classes. There is so much disconnect in our regular lives. God’s given us this chance to fix this all up. Your child’s habits, your child’s character is what they pick up from you at home, learning from what you DO, rather than what you SAY. This is the moment. You are not going to get this moment again. Ever. Teach them to be kind. Teach them to care about others. Video call your parents and show them you care. Video call your neighbour. Be humane. Because your child is watching you, and that is what they are going to grow up with. Believe it or not, you as parents are your child’s heroes.
There is a phrase I use as my motto: Be kind and leave a heart print wherever you go… When you go to the shops, the grocery store, and you see someone working. They are not with their family at home. Greet them. Call them by their name. Ask them how they are doing, and how their family is doing. They will never forget you.
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