While the coronavirus pandemic has been a stressful situation, more recent events have further fueled anxiety. There are still a lot of unknowns now and moving forward. Planning your “re-entry” into society looks different for each person. If this is a time of heightened anxiety for you, there are some steps you can take to help ease yourself and your family into the new normal.
First, evaluate your own personal risk. Have an open, honest conversation with your healthcare provider to understand the overall risk of COVID-19 to you and your family. Be sure to address any underlying health conditions. Ask if there are additional precautions you should follow above standard health safety guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or your state department of health. This can look different for each person.
“Reassure children of how you are keeping yourself and the rest of your family safe. Be aware of adult conversations when children are present, even if the children don’t seem to be listening,” says Christian Ware, Canopy Children’s Solutions Senior Director of Solutions. “You want your children to be informed enough to understand the situation but not to a degree that it causes worry.”
With small children, going out into public and seeing protective measures for the first time can be frightening. Talk to your child about masks, gloves and plexi-barriers and the role they take in keeping people healthy. Be sure to explain that just because someone is wearing a mask doesn’t mean they are sick. Your child may also notice new safety features including paper menus at restaurants and condiments missing from the tables, or even a hostess taking temperatures at the door. Be sure to answer all of their questions as age-appropriately as possible.
If you are anxious about getting back out into public, take baby steps. Children can often sense when a parent or adult is tense and can feed off of those emotions making them fearful. Equipped with your recommended PPE, go out for quick errands or a brief trip to the office. Take your child for ice cream and eat outside at a socially safe distance to help them feel at ease. Evaluate the risk of certain activities to help you regain your confidence outside of the home. While no activity is 100% risk-free according to health experts, participating in outdoor activities, those in well-ventilated areas, and places without crowds are deemed to hold the lowest risks.
“Protect your kids as much as possible with masks, social distancing, and proper hand-washing and sanitizing. Educate your kids as to why these steps are helping to protect them and encourage children to practice these measures even when you aren’t around, especially with hand-washing and maintaining adequate personal space between person-to-person,” says Ware.
If your child is returning to daycare or summer camp, talk to them beforehand about new safety measures such as social distancing and not sharing things like water bottles and personal items. Having your child prepared before they return will help them with a smoother transition into the new rules.
One of the most important ways of preparing yourself for the next step is to prepare yourself and your family mentally and emotionally. Keep on a routine as much a possible with normal waking, working and sleeping times. Take time to self-care through meditation, reading, or exercising to lower stress and clear your mind. As we enter this next phase of normal, remember that not everything you were forced to give up (social activities, sporting events, clubs, etc.) has to be picked back up. Take this time to reflect on your priorities and find what works best for you and your family.
Finally, if you or your child are still feeling very uneasy about what this new world looks like, don’t be afraid to talk to someone. Whether it is a certified therapist, friend, or loved one, explore those feelings and find positive ways to cope with them that allow you to live life without fearing what is around each corner.
ABOUT CANOPY CHILDREN’S SOLUTIONS Canopy’s mission is to help children thrive and families overcome extraordinary challenges by providing a comprehensive continuum of behavioral health, educational, and social service solutions. For more than 100 years, Canopy has provided innovative solutions to many of Mississippi’s most vulnerable youth. Today, we have grown into a robust network of statewide programs. Learn more at mycanopy.org or by calling 800-388-6247.