Finally! What we’ve been waiting for months is happening. As cities and regions across the country lift restrictions, we’re no longer cooped up indoors, away from friends and family. We should be immensely relieved, right? And yet, as hard as the quarantine was, reopening is presenting parents and kids with a different set of anxieties and challenges. The return to school is an important and hopefully a welcome step, in the right direction.
Here are a few ways in which we can help our children adapt to, and prepare for the challenges that they might face with the reopening of schools, colleges and other academic institutions:
Planning ahead is the key, even though realistically we can only plan for a few weeks ahead at once. This is important because it will help give our kids a sense of safety and security. But at the same time, be sure to acknowledge that those plans may have to be reassessed time and again depending on the situation. Include your children in the process of planning, as that will help them lessen the anxiety over how they will be spending their next few weeks. It’s also an important part of building resilience. If your plans do change, your child will be more prepared to handle their disappointment and adapt to new expectations
In times like these, it is very difficult to strike a balance in being social, but at the same time being safe. Kids would be really excited and looking forward to seeing their friends, but they could also carry a fear of getting sick at the same time. So, establishing some basic rule will give kids a sense of control. We as adults should first set some rules that we are comfortable with, and let our children know what the family rules are going to be about socialization moving forward. It’s important that whoever is running the show for these kids are all on the same page about what’s going to be safe.
After the ground rules are set, you want to empathize with the fear that your child is facing, but also encourage them to think about the ways that your family will work together to help everyone stay safe and healthy.
It will be really helpful for our children, if we let them know that reopening is a gradual process which is slow and that your family will take one careful step after the other. Nobody needs to rush into something that they are not ready for or not willing to do.
For your adolescent, that may mean establishing rules about maintaining that six-foot distance from their friends, keeping their mask on and meeting friends outside where there’s less risk. For younger children it might mean hanging out with families that you know have also been quarantined. Whether kids are anxious about getting sick, or have trouble managing impulsive behaviour, knowing what step they are in are right now can help them be comfortable.
Working with children to get ahead of an unsafe situation they might find themselves in, can help them feel more comfortable and make better decisions when the time comes.
We need to tell our child that there can come a time where they will have that awkward conversation where they might have to ask a friend to put on their mask or not get too close. It is not easy for adolescents and children to have such confrontational talks and setting such boundaries can cause some stress and anxiety in children. Planning their response can help reduce that anxiety and make it more likely that they stay safe if things do get tricky.
If you have a child who’s particularly anxious or scared, the first step to helping them cope, is to validate their fears about going out. As much as you can, answer their questions, because that’s a nice opportunity to dispel any myths, correct any misinformation and then remind them what you and they are doing to stay safe and what rules you’re going to follow
What is most important is that we encourage and maintain a healthy communication process and relationship with our kids while going through this. They need a great deal of safety from their caregivers. That kind of care and support will promote an environment of trust where healthy guidance can be received. This is a time to intensify positive relationships and provide ways for our kids to share their feelings and fears and find consolation and balance in how we respond to them. My hope is that you can consider these tips and take some time to help your kids cope with all the information that is so scary about this pandemic.