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First we were worried about our kids when quarantine began, but now we have a whole fresh list of concerns since places are starting to open up and quarantine is ending (at least for some of us). Where can we go safely? What precautions do we need to take? Will our kids have more anxiety about wearing masks and following social distancing rules? When will it be safe to have playdates and birthday parties and to go to camp and school?
Many of us are struggling with these concerns, and while it’s difficult to find solid answers since we are facing uncharted waters, the following tips can help ease your family’s stress post-quarantine.
Maintain Open Communication
One of the most important steps we can take as parents to help our kids during this stressful time is to keep the lines of communication open so they know they can come to us when they are struggling with issues like stress, fear, or sadness. Without giving them all the gory details about COVID-19, talk to them about the situation in an age-appropriate way. There are so many incredible resources available now from organizations like National Geographic, Sesame Street, and NBC News that educate children about the virus. What you don’t want to do is keep it a secret because that can only increase their concern about what is happening outside in the world.
It’s also a good time to educate your kids about stress and anxiety so they can recognize the emotions they are having and be able to talk to you about them. Let them know that feeling worried is completely normal and that it helps to talk about what scares them. By communicating with you, they will feel safe and supported—even if you don’t have all the answers. On that note, you may have to explain to your kids that these are uncertain times and adults are figuring things out as we learn more information. There are some instances in life in which we don’t know exactly what will happen and that is okay. By learning these lessons now, it will help them build resilience for their future.
How do you get the conversation started? If you have young children, you can ask them to draw a picture about what is bothering them. This might be easier for them if they are having trouble finding words to explain their feelings. For older children who may be struggling and reluctant to talk to you, encourage them to express their feelings in a creative way like journaling, crafting a poem, or writing song lyrics. These can be very healing exercises. If you need help with getting the conversation started, check out these tips.
Build A Safety Net
During this time, it’s important to make sure you have a plan for your family if someone does get sick, especially you and/or your partner. Some steps to take include choosing doctors you trust who will be available when you need help, having an updated will that includes identifying guardians for your children, being up-to-date on your health insurance and life insurance with an insurance premium you are comfortable with, and having childcare ready-to-go if one of you gets sick.
Take Reasonable Precautions
Health experts from the CDC and beyond recommend that we wear masks and stay 6 feet away from others. Wearing a mask may be stressful or frightening to our children, so be sure to explain the importance of protecting ourselves and others. Wearing a mask is now an act of kindness to help protect the most vulnerable in our community from getting sick.
To make it easier for your children to wear masks, make or buy them fun masks with their favorite characters on them or let them pretend that they are a kindness superhero when they wear their mask. Social distancing will also be challenging for our children, especially because we know how much they gain from human contact and affection from loved ones. Explain to them that this is just a temporary situation and soon the scientists will find a solution so we can all hug our friends and grandparents again.
Find Activities You Are Comfortable With
During the transition beyond the comfort of our own homes, it can be confusing to decide which activities are safe to participate in. I have been receiving emails from gymnastics centers, indoor play zones, and other kid-friendly places announcing that they are open and want our business. However, we all have to evaluate what we are comfortable doing at each stage of the reopening and before there is a safe treatment and a vaccine for this virus.
In the meantime, we can enjoy an array of outdoor activities like bike rides, trips to the park, swimming in our backyard, and visits to outdoor nature centers. There are also so many amazing online options for our kids to enjoy until we feel safe taking them to more places throughout our community.
Don’t Be Afraid To Seek Help
There may come a time that your child’s stress and anxiety get intense as a result of the pandemic. It’s ok to ask for professional help. There are so many options available now, including virtual therapy sessions.
You know your child best, so trust your gut reaction if something doesn’t seem quite right. Some red flags to look for include: a decline in school performance; regressed behavior like bedwetting or separation issues; frequent aches and pains, such as headaches or upset stomach; difficulty sleeping and nightmares; changes in eating habits; and having low or no energy.
How are you managing the stress that comes along with the quarantine ending?