The Covid pandemic has affected us all in many different ways.
Businesses have been shut down. Churches have gone virtual. Restaurants have had to adjust to new methods of serving their customers. And education has faced uncertainty and the difficulty of adapting to a period of learning from home.
It’s been a challenging time, to say the least. And all of us have experienced our share of hardships related to this unprecedented season in our world.
For parents with children at home, an additional challenge has involved helping our kids to understand why so many things have changed.
Why can’t they play with their friends like they used to?
Why did they have to attend school on the couch?
Why can’t they go to the places they were used to going?
Explaining these things to our young kids is a tricky thing, and parents should be applauded for rising up to the challenge of helping their children navigate such a strange time.
But now, as we face the beginning of another school year, and with Covid not settling down, the question becomes, “How do we continue to help our children as they adjust to a new normal when it comes to school and social life?”
This is an important question, and I have some thoughts that might help!
Here are five things parents can do to help lead their kids as they start school, sports, and socialization with the ever-present stress and anxiety of the Covid pandemic. How can we help them to live in spite of the weird atmosphere of our world, while maintaining their health and happiness?
#1 – Talk openly with them about the changes in our world
Children are very perceptive, and they can often tell when things aren’t right. My own children have an oddly strong radar when it comes to any stress or anxiety in our home. If you’re like me, you don’t always do a great job of concealing what you are feeling.
On top of that, even if they don’t watch the news or hear every conversation, they pick up on enough bits and pieces to know that things are happening. If we don’t talk to them about things that are happening and we leave them with bits and pieces and their imaginations, things can get pretty scary in their heads. So, while I’m not saying we need to lay out every detail and evey fact and every statistic (we don’t want to burden them with adult worries!), I do think we should ask them what they know, find out what they’re worried about, and put things in the right perspective for them. This can go far in soothing their anxieties.
#2 – Don’t panic if they break “protocol”. Remember that they’re kids!”
I have three young kids – 8, 5, and 18 months. While they do know that we are dealing with “the virus” and they understand that we need to wear masks and keep our distance from people, the fact remains that they are children. This means they aren’t going to always maintain “protocol” when it comes to living with the presnce of this virus. Especially when (IF?) they start school this year, I fully expect that there will be times when they aren’t wearing their masks right, or when they get too close to a classmate, or when they rub their nose or put their fingers in their mouths.
Am I going to freak out and scold them each time they slip up? No way. Am I going to gently remind them to remember what we’ve talked about and try to be more careful? Absolutely. I don’t want to send my kids out with fear and panic. And I don’t want them to be so uptight that they can’t still enjoy life. I want them to still be children and not be burdened with the responsibilities of adults when it comes to their health and wellbeing.
#3 – Remind them that life often involves circumstances that are beyond their control, and equip them to handle things that they have no power over.
Equipping our children to handle life is one of the most important parental responsibilities. We can’t do everything for them. We can’t be their saviors. And we can’t shield them from every problem or negative circumstance or risk. what we CAN do is help them to deal with what they face. And this is going to prepare them for life as an adult one day in the future.
So how can we equip them to handle life in the midst of a pandemic? Well, it starts with communicating with them and heling them to sort through their feelings. Then it involves teaching them the reality that life often involves things that are beyond our control. We need to help them to understand that the only thing they can control in life is the person in the mirror – their own reactions, choices, feelings, and actions. This will free them from the weight of trying to control the world around them. Many adults still haven’t figured this out, and we need to make sure our kids are ready ahead of time.
#4 – Let them be angry and frustrated, but help them to learn how to cope.
This goes back to communication. We need to give our children space to ask questions, express their feelings, and have the permission to be mad about this situation. I’ll be honest – I’ve been mad about it too! I want this stupid virus to go away so we can all enjoy normal life again. But, since it’s something that is beyond our control, all we can focus on now is how we are handling it. Kids aren’t much different.
They may get angry about the fact that so many things are different and they can’t do what they used to do. This is okay! Let them get mad, and then teach them ways to cope with that anger.
#5 – Create ways for them to still have some sense of “normal” each week.
Finally, our kids need to still have some sense of “normal” on a weekly basis. Even if they can’t attend a birthday party or have sleepovers with friends, and even if school looks different again, we can work hard to incorporate activities each week that allow them to have fun, let loose, play, and have some sort of “socialization.”
For us, going to the river to swim and play is a common weekly actvity. We spend a lot of time in the water, and we use this time to help our kids get their minds off of how different things are. We may not sit down in a restaurant as a family like we used to, but we get takeout and come home to watch a movie together, and this suffices for the time being. We go on walks as a family and let them ride their bikes and scooters, and we get in the car and go for a drive and take them to Sonic and give them the feeling that we are going places and doing things, and this makes life a little more normal for them, and for us as well!
This list isn’t perfect, and there are probably other things that parents have done to help their kids navigate this crazy and changing world. I don’t claim to be an expert, but my wife and I have tried to incorporate these five things on a consistent basis and we’ve seen success with our children. I can only hope that these tips help other families who are struggling with Covid and the weird social environment in which we find ourselves.
Let me know if I missed anything by commenting below!