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Mama Said: How can we keep hope alive for kids?

As everything gets worse and worse, Emily Martin wonders if we can keep hope alive for children?

How can we keep our children hopeful in this world of worry, asks Emily Martin (60239711)
How can we keep our children hopeful in this world of worry, asks Emily Martin (60239711)

What are we worrying about today? Take your pick from the growing list: the cost of living, hurricanes, the pound crashing, petrol, the Government, nuclear war, the Nord Stream pipe, or what about just Covid and how it’s almost winter, again? By the time you read this, it’s possible that at least one of these troubling headings has worsened further, which is a dreadful thought.

And as all these very black clouds constantly form over our heads and multiply, sometimes jabbing large groups of us with particularly vicious forks of lightning, we have to just keep calm and carry on. Plus if there are children living in our houses, when the six o’clock news comes on, we have to figure out if we’re going to turn it down, or off, or just let them see it and then, are we letting them see our gloomy reactions too?

Childhood is meant to be worry-free, but for parents that’s becoming increasingly impossible to facilitate. Girl overheard us talking about how my mother has recently bought a head-torch, you know “just in case”. What horrific scenario will befall our family that my Mum, of all people, will be the one to don the head torch, I dread to think, but anyway we had to explain that having a torch could be handy in case the power was ever cut off and she said: “Oh great. I’ll just add that to my list of things to worry about along with asteroids, Mummy going to the Co-op and not coming back, lightning and war.”

When I was a child I don’t remember worrying about much at all, other than the traditional “What if my parents die?” That was pretty much it. Just plain old death. I wasn’t aware of myself in a wider context even one tiny bit. I just went to bed and stared at my flowery wallpaper, planning how tomorrow I could maybe lower an umbrella full of Sylvanians down from my bedroom window into the back garden on a rope, and wouldn’t that be fun for them, and for me.

Compared to my carefree childhood in the 80s when I now know loads of bad stuff happened, only a handful newsworthy moments ever permeated my enjoyment of life. But, with a son about to turn 5, he definitely has no memory of a world without Covid. And now the cost of living crisis and constant energy bills talk surely must be on his little radar.

In my house we’ve stopped using the dishwasher to mitigate the cost of living crisis (I’m not convinced this is saving enough money to justify the decision but please, don’t get me started). And I think we’re all agreed nationwide that the heating’s not going on this winter. At the moment there’s a sort of jumper-wearing spirit to that idea but let’s see how it feels in a couple of months. Extremely miserable I should think.

The trouble is, regardless of the raging bin-fire we’ve grown used to living in, we still have to teach the children to be hopeful, while we wipe the doom off our faces after watching the news: “You can be whatever you want”, we tell them at bedtime. “Work hard and you can achieve literally anything,” we say as their bright eyes widen. “Dream big.” “Shoot for the moon and even if you miss you’ll land amongst the stars.”

But realistically, the future isn’t bright. All the jobs available now probably won’t exist in 20 years. The careers we were taught to aspire to as kids, like doctor, teacher or journalist, have turned out to be filled with pitfalls and financial trickery. And unless our children become “TikTok influencers” with a “passive income stream”, maybe something to do with “drop-shipping”, they’ll never have enough money or have anything at all. That’s a big claim that I can’t back up, but that’s what I’ve heard on TikTok.

Plus also, the economy and the climate crisis is so, so bad that it’s going to take most of the rest of our lifetimes to sort it all out, if it can be sorted out at all, so there’s really no point in trying to do anything.

When my children get bits of money for their birthdays, my eyes laser onto to every note that falls out of their cards, calculating how much more they must have in their bank accounts than I do. I asked Girl how she felt about the cost of living crisis and she shrugged. So I said, “Shall we use some of your money to help pay the bills? Run the dishwasher for a little treat?” and she said, “No. I’m a child, that’s weird.”

Oh well, Hakuna Matata. For a large fee, I’m available for school career talks and motivational speaking.


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