Navigating the New Normal
As we begin to transition to Stage 3 and 4 in Western New York, many families are slowly beginning the transition back to some sort of “normal” after the stay at home orders. Some children may be starting back to childcare or in-person summer camp. For the past three months (in many cases) our children have been home with their primary caregivers. Transitioning back into regular activities, leaving caregivers and understanding the new normal can cause children and caregivers to feel a new stress.
It’s important for us as caregivers to help the transition for our children go as smoothly as possible. One big way we can do that is to prepare our children in advance for what they will experience. Here are some important tips to keep in mind when transitioning to different routines and talking with your children about their feelings.
- Be curious. Ask open questions and actively listen to understand more about your child’s thoughts and feelings.
- Take cues from your child. Take your cues from your child. Invite your child to tell you anything they may have heard about the coronavirus, and how they feel. Give them opportunities to ask questions. You want to be prepared to answer (but not prompt) questions. Your goal is to avoid encouraging frightening fantasies.
- Normalize and validate their feelings. This means letting them know that what they are feeling is normal, other people feel the same way and that there is nothing wrong with their feelings. For example, “It must be hard to have so many worries, but it’s normal to worry about getting sick when you go back to school.”
- Reassure your child that they are safe. Let them know it is OK if they feel upset. Share with them how you deal with your own stress so that they can learn how to cope from you.
- Focus on what you’re doing to stay safe. An important way to reassure kids is to emphasize the safety precautions that you are taking. Jamie Howard, PhD, a child psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, notes, “Kids feel empowered when they know what to do to keep themselves safe.”
- Take small steps to re-integrate into society.Some fears can be alleviated with small, controlled exposures. For instance, a great first step might be a quick trip to the supermarket or organizing for your child to meet and hangout with one friend in a park.
- Practice wearing a mask Your child may have challenges or discomfort when wearing a face mask. After talking about the importance of face masks, ask your child about what might be bothersome and any preferences in type, color, or style. Once you understand, you can help work with your child to help make the face mask more comfortable to wear.
- Use a “visual timer” technique. Put a timer on and wear a mask alongside your child at home. Incrementally increase the time to allow your child to get used to the feel.
- Provide rewards. Give your child a reward for practicing wearing the mask at home. For example, allow your child screen time while wearing the mask.
- Deal with your own anxiety. “When you’re feeling most anxious or panicked, that isn’t the time to talk to your kids about what’s happening with the coronavirus,” warns Dr. Domingues. If you notice that you are feeling anxious, take some time to calm down before trying to have a conversation or answer your child’s questions.
Here are two articles that discuss these topics in more detail:
A guide to supporting children’s social-emotional well being at this time.
Meaningful May, a calendar guide to social emotional health:
Help young children think of strategies to use when they start to feel emotional with this story which includes practice techniques for managing strong emotions and possible solutions for practicing problem solving skills.
Tucker Turtle Takes Time to Think (English)
La tortuga Tucker toma tiempo para detenerse y pensar
Ages Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) activities to do at home.
ASQ activities for Social-Emotional health.
Useful guide regarding mask-wearing and children:
Challenging behaviors story resource to read with young children. (Spanish version)
Previous HomeGrown Entries
Week 1 – Monitoring your child’s socio-emotional health during this time.
Week 2 – Learning how to stay patient as a parent is always a work in progress.
Week 3 – Get Creative Stimulating Your Child’s Creativity
Week 4 – Dance in the Rain
Week 5 – Talking with Children About Race
Week 6 – Children and Protests
Week 7- Taking What Summer Gives