This article was written by our therapist, Jennifer Campoy, LCSW, from our Insight Treatment location in Pasadena.
As we re-emerge into the world and adjust to a “new normal”, what should we expect? As parents and kids make the transition back to school, they are anticipating a myriad of changes, managing anxiety and discomfort, and adjusting yet again to a new reality.
We’ve made adjustments and had losses that we were not prepared for – losing connections to teachers, learning losses & loss of contact with our communities. There’s no question that witnessing kids’ loneliness, difficulties with on-line learning and endless hours on social media has been stressful and painful for many parents. And yet this year has also come with extraordinary resilience — the ability to pivot, adjust, and make meaning are all things to be celebrated as we know that we grow from adversity.
But most kids are having anxiety about returning to school – anxiety about safety, about an increase in rules, and even how to socialize. The insistence that kids return will depend on the family’s and child’s unique situation – do they need socialization because they have been isolated? Do they learn better with live instruction?
Attention spans will be shorter, there will be more rules & it will take patience to abide by new social distancing structures. In addition to talking to kids about their fears and anxieties, the following tips & tools may help to prepare everyone:
- Strategize your schedules – talk about what adjustments need to be made
- Have kids get ready the night before and have their schedule ready
- Keep a personal and family calendar
- Gradually get back to school year schedule routines
- Do not shy away from asking the deeper, harder questions about struggle, like suicidal ideation or feeling depressed
- Help kids find a sense of agency – what can they control?
Parents have also suffered during this pandemic and talking about it will help kids. Talk about how they cope with stress themselves. The availability of adults and whether parents are keeping it together is a predictor of childrens’ resilience. Kids do need certain kinds of experiences in their lives to develop normally but there is no reason to think an interruption like this is going to cause permanent damage. We have to consider how we are going to frame this period as we emerge from it. We need to focus not just on hardship and tragedy. We need to praise ourselves and our kids for their flexibility, resilience and ability to change if we are to help them recover and return to normalcy.
Jennifer Campoy, LCSW
Psychotherapist and Clinical Social Worker