Setting aside the device and planning in-real-life playdates. Transitioning from drive-by birthdays to bona fide cake-n-jump house celebrations. Leaving the comfort cocoon of living room home school for a return to the classroom. As more Americans are vaccinated, camps reopen and extracurriculars shift to high gear, parents and children alike face new adjustment challenges in returning to full schedules. But by managing emotions constructively, reevaluating priorities and developing goals, families can establish a new and improved normal for 2021.
Time Out –for Talking
At cnn.com child psychiatrist Dr. Neha Chaudhary advises parents to help children process fears and excitement and positively reframe negative thoughts. They should also “plan ahead” and give children tools to feel more confident. A child worried about COVID can practice self-talk that he’ll be wearing a mask and socially distancing, pack extra masks for camp and try calming deep breathing techniques. “Give them a safe space to synthesize coherent thoughts, hone awareness of their own feelings and share what’s on their mind so they aren’t holding it all in.”
Let Them Go
Child psychiatrist Dr. Harold Koplewicz in USA Today advises to support children with empathy, validation and intervention. “Assure them that you understand their fears and concerns. If a child needs a tutor or a therapist, don’t wait for his or her symptoms to become severe to find help.” He recommends parents reestablish household routines and rules like early bedtime to ease anxieties and encourage children to take gradual, gentle steps towards socialization like FaceTime playdates or outdoor activities. “Kids who’ve been cooped up and isolated will need to spread their wings and take chances... You can’t protect a child from the trials of life. But you can give kids armor by creating a loving scaffold to help them grow.”
Embrace a Calm, Centered Life
Likewise, Christine Koh writes in the Washington Post, “The pandemic has caused parents to slow down. Here’s how to preserve that pace.” She advises to make a list of pros and cons of your life right now, set work/life boundaries, keep positive aspects of pandemic learning and maintain new family traditions like games and day trips. Savor simple moments mindfully like sipping tea—and find a way to keep that more peaceful morning routine.
Through the transition Dr. Chaudhary advises parents to stay updated on school policies, be flexible and foster stability. “Kids need stability during times of change. Try your best to be present, predictable and consistent. You might be the only part of their lives—and minds—that feels that way right now.” And if the child seems stressed, “the best thing you can do is meet the reactions with compassion, warmth and calm instead of reacting yourself. If you channel a peaceful energy, you’ll be able to share that with your kids when they need it most.”