How do we teach our children to adjust to the “new normal”? First, we must admit there is a “new normal.” We cannot be in denial this late in the game. There’s no room for undue panic or self-centered pouting. It is what it is. A pandemic.
I think, at this point, most parents have accepted it. Once we have accepted that this is the way it will before a while, we can effectively run our family and look out for the mental well-being of our children.
They are being affected by pandemic-related stress, to be certain. It is our job as parents to guide them through these uncharted waters like a pro. To teach them to adjust to the “new normal” we must understand how children learn. Think about it. As babies, they watch and watch, unable to do much of anything. They become keen observers. It’s all babies can do. Then, when they’re able, they try new things. Roll. Crawl. Walk. Speak.
Children learn by watching us. Let me say it again. They are watching us. How we look. How we act. How we talk about the virus. It’s important to remember this when we think about how they are taking it. Children will key off the way we handle the changes the pandemic has brought about in our lives. School and work schedules have been interrupted. Caregivers have changed. There is no shortage of changes with COVID. And with change, comes stress. The more stressed we are, the more stressed our children become.
According to Dr. Linda Nicolotti with Brenner Children's Hospital, adults should consider how their conversations with other adults about the pandemic are affecting their children.
Children sense stress in the home. Too much news about the virus can cause undue anxiety for you and your child. Limit virus news and media exposure for children. Dr. Nicolotti recommends adults find ways to manage their own stress to set a good example for their children.
What are some ways adults can manage their stress level? Be intentional about physical exercise. Get out. Drag the family out for a nightly walk after dinner. Shoot some hoops in the driveway or play tennis at the park with your children. Do the things you wish you had time for before the pandemic struck.
Sketch the neighbor’s cows or a beautiful sunset. You have the time. Play a board game and let your child read the instructions aloud to practice reading. Spend some one-on-one time with each child. Look them in the eyes and ask them what they want to do. Your children may surprise you with their ideas.
Simply put, enjoy the moment. When you manage your stress, you will be lowering the level of stress in your home and in your child.
With school starting, parents are charged with making the best educational decisions for their family. Whatever you choose, know that people will judge you. Ignore them. Do what is best for your situation. Make a decision and own it but be willing to adjust if needed. Explain to your child what your school year will look like the best you can. Tell them that everyone’s situation is different, and they will make the best choice for their family, just like you did.
Children need a sense of certainty and routine. So, be confident. Take your plan and run with it. Make it work for you. Don’t listen to other people. You know what is best for your family. When you look back on the COVID pandemic of 2020, what kind of memories will you have? For our children’s sake, let’s not make it a time of anxiety and worry.
Let us hold our children close and create joy-filled moments each day. Because they are recording every little piece of data in their minds. This is their childhood. A COVID childhood. Let’s overwrite the virus with pleasant memories of mom and dad or grandparents being present with the family. Working on projects. Having movie nights with popcorn. Secretly blessing a neighbor.
We may not be able to control the existence or spread of the virus, but we absolutely can control what we do with this time we’ve been given.