When the COVID-19 pandemic began, we were all thrown off-guard. Schools and businesses closed. Thousands of Americans became ill with a new virus. Life, as we knew it in many ways, was put on hold.
Now, in response to the highly infectious Omicron variant, many school districts have reverted to remote learning, and more Americans are testing positive for COVID-19 than ever before.
How can we cope with the current situation, prepare ourselves and our children for future uncertainty, and care for their mental health?
Even when things are unpredictable, you can help yourself and your kids feel more confident and secure about the present. Whether or not you realize it, your response matters: How you react to uncertainty influences your kids’ reactions to the same circumstances. Modeling emotion expression and coping strategies can help your kids feel calmer, safer, and more resilient in the face of stress and anxiety.
Try these ideas to help your kids feel more comfortable when faced with uncertainty:
- Talk about feelings together. When your kids are affected by new realities caused by COVID-19 uncertainty, talk about it in an honest, age-appropriate way. Ask how they feel about the change and validate their feelings. If you have similar feelings, share that. Then find ways to accept the new normal together and cope with any feelings it may bring. Try practicing mindfulness. If the change is temporary – perhaps a few weeks of online school – focusing on that may make it easier for kids to endure.
- Maintain your family’s usual routines. Kids thrive when they follow established routines, especially in the face of change. If your school district pivots to online learning, for example, keep your child’s days structured similar to what they’re used to at school. Make a schedule with time for learning, playing, and family time. A consistent bedtime, meal, and physical activity schedule is also important. We have sample schedules to get you started!
- Support safe socialization. Isolating due to COVID-19 exposure is difficult. Luckily, technology helps us stay connected to friends and families; we just have to get creative! Encourage your kids stay connected with their peers while they are at home. They can do video calls, online games, or even write each other through mail! Socializing is an important part of development and children’s mental health.
- Take care of your well-being. Putting on your oxygen mask before helping your kids put on theirs is a helpful analogy to follow during uncertain times. Kids pick up cues about anxiety and stress from their parents. Make time for sleep, exercise, healthy eating, and meaningful connections with friends, so that you feel composed and balanced, despite the uncertainty in your life. Self-care should help you feel more grounded and calmer, which may help your kids feel more relaxed and reassured. Remember, to be kind to yourself. As a caretaker, it is hard to balance all of your demands- it is okay if not everything is perfect at all times.
- Help your kids control what they can. At different stages of the pandemic, loss of control has affected the most basic constants in our lives, like going to school or work. When a new wave of uncertainty strikes, do what you can to give your kids a greater sense of control over their lives. Let them decide what to wear, what’s for lunch, or what game to play after dinner. (You can give two or three choices.) Your kids may feel more hopeful, knowing that they can still exert influence over their lives, despite uncertainty.