Well, we made it to September. This feels like an accomplishment even though I seem to be functioning as smoothly as that one wonky wheel on shopping carts. Twenty-twenty has surely been a trying year but now that the kids are back in school, this truly is the "new normal." Husband has been working from home for nearly 6 months. I have grown accustomed to leaving the house without the little one in-tow. I hardly notice wearing a mask anymore and I'm loving the lack of things we need to attend. But during a time of civil unrest and global pandemic, it's hard to know what things will look like when they "go back to normal."
Every commercial, right now, reminds us that we are living in unprecedented times. As a mother with a predisposition to overthink everything, I often wonder how wide the affects of 2020 will stretch. How will the uncertainty of this pandemic imprint on the young minds of our children and affect who they become? How can we ensure that our children are coping at least as well as we are?
1. Allow Your Child to Feel
Missing school dances or the lack of birthday party in 2020 may seem like a minor consequence compared to decrease in wages and deaths due to COVID-19 but these are the milestones on which your child measures his or her year. Older children are more likely to experience anxiety due to the virus and the possibility of someone getting it. Fear and sadness can be expected for these young minds during this time. Encourage your son or daughter to talk about his or her feelings and remind him or her that it's okay to experience these emotions.
2. Point Out the Positives
Whether your kids will be making their way back to the classrooms or staying at home with you this Fall, there will be changes. First day of school jitters will likely be intensified due to the uncertainty of how this all will work. With masks and social distancing protocols, many children will feel as if they are missing out on their favorite parts of their school day. Remind your children of the positive side effects that have resulted from this change in routine.
Once a week, as we sit around the dinner table, our family discusses our favorite parts of quarantine. Don't be surprised if you have to "encourage" a few of the responses. Enjoying breakfast with Dad is one side effect that would rather happen pre-COVID. No uniforms during e-learning, an increase in screen time during quarantine, and watching church on TV in jammies are a few of our kids' favorite silver linings. Encourage your children to see the glass a little more than half full.
3. Focus on What You Can Control
As safety protocols change and schools reopen or choose to provide virtual learning, it's easy for children to feel as if they have no control in their daily life. This lack of control can leave your little one feeling helpless and unsure of their future. Uncertainty breeds anxiety and, for most kids, this is the most uncertainty they have ever experienced in their lifetime.
In order to combat this feeling of uncertainty, focus on what you can control. Put the metaphorical reigns back into their hands and remind your little one of all the things he or she can control. If the anxiety is directly related to the virus, emphasize that wearing a mask and washing hands are the best steps he or she can take to prevent illness. If your child is concerned about COVID safety at school, discuss ways he or she can regain a sense of control with actions such as following the distance recommendations and refraining from sharing school supplies. Turn their focus back to the things they can control to help them cope with the controllable.
4. Seek Professional Help
When a child's anxiety and fear are affecting everyday activities, it may be time consider seeking professional help in order for your son or daughter learn positive coping skills. Many mental health professionals are currently offering virtual appointments for increased safety and calming any fears of in-person appointments. Through counseling, children learn to work through their emotions and how to cope with the stressors they encounter in a positive way.
Show your children that it's okay to acknowledge feelings by talking about your own. Discussing the importance of mental health will help eliminate the stigma that follows and can empower your children to know how to ask for help if they need it.
As we turn the corner on the final season of this unprecedented year, I'm sure there will be more surprises to come but we will endure. The children will have good days and bad days, high anxiety days and days that feel like we are "back to normal." As far as establishing routine, I remind myself that I am their constant. We,as parents, are their certainty during these uncertain times.