It’s natural for parents to feel stressed and anxious right now. Whether your kids are going back to school in person or a hybrid learning situation, there are complicated issues facing families everywhere. Anxiety wants security and certainty and, with COVID related risks, we just don’t have much of that these days. To help you manage your anxiety, try these tools:
- Identify what you can control: Rather than focusing on what might happen and the possible negative outcomes from that, shift your attention to proactive action. What steps can you take to protect your child and yourself as much as possible? Get as informed as you can about your school’s policies and decide whether those make sense to you and your family. If not, explore what choices make you feel most comfortable. Give your student the tools they’ll need. Provide your child or teen with masks and hand sanitizer. Show them what physical distancing looks like: use a tape measure to demonstrate six feet. Review hand-washing techniques and the importance of not sharing food or drinks. Set up a routing of hand sanitization when they come home from school.
- Brainstorm solutions to challenging social situations: Your kids will need some help figuring out what to say when other kids aren’t wearing masks or social distancing. When you work on this together, you’ll lower your anxiety as well as theirs. Create a few easy-to-remember statements with them such as “I’d like to play with you during recess. Will you wear a mask to make it safe for us?” Or, “I’m sorry but I’m not sharing my lunch these days but your sandwich sure looks good.” Or, “I’d love to come over and hang out but I have to check with my parents.” When kids have clear language that gives them a way out of sticky situations, they’ll be less likely to succumb to peer pressure. This will be reassuring for you.
- Put a centering activity into your daily routine: Whether it’s five or thirty minutes of meditation or yoga, a walk, run or bike ride outside or dancing to your favorite song each morning, find something that makes you feel good and do it. We need those wonderful endorphins from exercise now more than ever. The benefits from daily yoga and/or meditation will help you practice how to monitor your reactivity and use your breath or slow movements to calm yourself down during those inevitable stressful moments. Make a list of quick calm-me-down activities when you feel nervous that includes changing your environment (go to a different room or get a breath of fresh air), drinking a glass of water, saying a positive affirmation that you believe or going to the bathroom and splashing water on your face.
- Recall past successes in times of stress: Anxiety is very skilled at fostering amnesia about our personal resources and strengths. In a quiet moment, think about some challenging times in the past and how you overcame them. What personality traits and life skills assisted you? How can you apply those strengths to this situation? Write down some of your reflections so you can refer to them in a tough time. Ask for support from caring friends and family members to help you use some of these tools when you’re feeling particularly worried.