In 2020, the world seemed to shut down as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Families and schools learned how to adapt to this "new normal" and hoped to just make it to the next school year. Even though we made it through last year, this year has had plenty of ups and downs with closures and mask policies. We are all eager to return to our former normal, but for the time being, we are still very much in the middle of this pandemic.
As the new school year approaches, we know that there are still some adjustments that need to be made. This sort of uncertainty can lead to extra stress. So how do we talk to our children about the upcoming school year and the uncertainty? Here are a few ways you can best work through these challenges with your children.
More than ever, children need a direct line of communication with their families. No matter how hard we try to protect our children from the world, there is no way to shield them from the stress of Covid-19. Be direct and honest surrounding the unknowns. If age-appropriate, include your child in the decision-making process. Discuss the specific factors that are unique to your family and why these led to the decision made. Ask your child for feedback and validate their questions and concerns.
Create a safe landing place
Just as you are experiencing, our children’s world is chaotic and in constant change. Processing these changes is difficult and overwhelming. One thing to remember is that a child’s behavior is a direct response to how they feel. If the lines of communication are broken with parents and caregivers, children feel increasingly out of control and behaviors become more and more negative. Be open and willing to create and hold space for your child. Be prepared for a tidal wave of emotional changes. Sit with your child and help them process and work through the emotions they are feeling. We must meet our child’s emotions with honesty, understanding, and empathy.
Coping and Resiliency
To understand coping and resiliency, we must first recognize and acknowledge that Newton's third law is true. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In this scenario, Covid-19 is the ACTION and it is triggering a behavioral or emotional REACTION in your child. Though we’d hoped the stimulus or “action” would be a distant memory by this time, the fear and confusion surrounding Covid-19 is exponentially increasing. Since the emotional trigger cannot be eliminated, our focus must shift to coping and resiliency. Learning to cope is not about changing the feeling experienced, but rather the ability to regulate it. To reach emotional regulation, one must learn to accurately identify, accept and express feelings in a healthy emotionally appropriate way. To help your child begin this process, sit down and work through this series of questions.
- Identify the emotion - what does the emotion look like?
- Identify when and what triggers the emotion - is there a specific location or event/situation causing the trigger?
- How do they feel when they experience the emotion - specifically where do they feel the emotion in their body?
- How they express the emotion - how do they let the emotion out, fits, yelling, arguments, drinking, etc?
2020 and 2021 have been a continuous roller-coaster and the new school year will likely be the same. There are going to be ups and downs and more changes than we can count. Allow time for yourself and apply grace! We are all doing the best we can. For more information on emotional regulation and coping skills, please reach out to us and we will help you get started with a clinician that specifically meets the needs of your family.