CRN hosts the activities of Child Research Network Asia (CRNA), a group of specialists who discuss issues and problems regarding children and are engaged in finding solutions. At present, due to the current coronavirus pandemic, real events and meetings have been suspended, but up to now, we had been meeting once a year at our annual conference. Regarding issues of common interest, we are continuing research activities online.
This year CRNA's research theme is the "Well-Being of Children in the Time of COVID-19." Specialists in preschool education, developmental psychology, early childhood education, and pediatrics from eight countries and regions (Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, China, Japan, the Philippines, and Malaysia) have decided to explore the coronavirus issues that concern children in each country (mental health, school closure, online child care and learning) and offer some solutions.
The other day, when seeking solutions to children's issues from specialists, we shared views on our image and expectations of children. Through our discussions, we recognized that the field of study and its history differ from country to country, but confirmed that our feelings for children are nearly the same, and came to share a common view of "happy and resilient children."
"Resilient" may not be a familiar term to everyone. In the field of psychology, it refers to having the "ability to recover psychologically" and the "strength to recover." In general, our expectations of children tend to focus on "cooperativeness," "strong independence," and "a sense of empathy," but now that children will face a future with such unpredictable occurrences as the outbreak of a coronavirus pandemic, "resilience" has been identified as an important characteristic.
At the meeting, when the specialists representing 8 countries approved the term of "Happy and Resilient Children," I recalled a certain photograph*.
It was a photograph taken after the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. In the photograph, a boy waits in front of a crematorium with the body of his younger brother on his back. He bites his lower lip, and in his expression, we can feel a sense of resilience, a will to keep on going, no matter what. The boy's expression is a powerful message that goes beyond the cultural or historical differences of viewers. This power is also expressed in the words of the following American author and his hope for peace in an essay that he wrote after visiting Auschwitz and other sites of tragedy around the world:
"In this photograph, it seemed to me, one saw the dignity, stoicism, and will to go on the face of unimaginable loss that has so characterized and ennobled the Japanese people since the war.
Susan and I stared at this photograph for a long time."**
Today, we are facing the crisis and challenge of the coronavirus pandemic, and I hope that we will show the resilience that we witness in the little boy's expression.
- * A photo taken by an American military photographer, Joe O'Donnell. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/special/episode/202008300810/
- ** Thomas H. Cook, Even Darkness Sings: From Auschwitz to Hiroshima: Finding Hope in the Saddest Places on Earth. Pegasus Books, NY, 2018.