In March, Arkansas families experienced major disruption as schools were forced to close in response to Covid-19. Parents and guardians grumbled and moaned as work and home lives were transitioned to accommodate virtual learning. We told ourselves that if we could just make it until May, the pandemic would be over, and school would return to normal in the fall.
Fast forward, it’s August and the 2020-2021 school year is quickly approaching. Despite what we’d hoped or promised ourselves, Covid-19 is still very real. The sense of normalcy we’d hoped for is gone. We again are faced with loads of uncertainty and fear, for us and our children. Most schools are offering a combination of learning plans, recognizing each family is in a different situation. The options presented afford families the ability to choose based on personal circumstance; including finance, childcare and technology available, the ability to carry out the virtual learning model, etc.. With the active number of Covid-19 cases still on the rise, there is no perfect solution and no decision made without risk. It truly comes down to doing what you feel is best for your child and your family. So how do we talk to our children about the upcoming school year, the decisions made and the uncertainty? Here are a few ways you can best work through these new challenges with your children.
More than ever, children need a direct line of communication with their family. No matter how hard we try to protect our children from the world, there is no way to shield them from the stress of Covid-19. Be direct and honest surrounding the unknowns. If age appropriate, include your child in the decision-making process. Discuss the specific factors that are unique to your family and why these led to the decision made. Ask your child for feedback and validate their questions and concerns.
Create a safe landing place
Just as you are experiencing, our children’s world is chaotic and in constant change. Processing these changes is difficult and overwhelming. One thing to remember is that a child’s behavior is a direct response to how they feel. If the lines of communication are broken with parents and caregivers, children feel increasingly out of control and behaviors become more and more negative. Be open and willing to create and hold space for your child. Be prepared for a tidal wave of emotional changes. Sit with your child and help them process and work through the emotions they are feeling. We must meet our child’s emotion with honesty, understanding and empathy.
Coping and Resiliency
To understand coping and resiliency, we must first recognize and acknowledge that Newtons third law is true. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. In this scenario, Covid-19 is the ACTION and it is triggering a behavioral or emotional REACTION in your child. Though we’d hoped the stimulus or “action” would be a distant memory by this time, the fear and confusion surrounding Covid-19 is exponentially increasing. Since the emotional trigger cannot be eliminated, our focus must shift to coping and resiliency. Learning to cope is not about changing the feeling experienced, but rather the ability to regulate it. To reach emotional regulation, one must learn to accurately identify, accept and express feelings in a healthy emotional appropriate way. To help your child begin this process, sit down and work through this series of questions.
- Identify the emotion - what does the emotion look like?
- Identify when and what triggers the emotion - is there a specific location or event/situation causing the trigger?
- How they feel when they experience the emotion - specifically where do they feel the emotion in their body?
- How they express the emotion - how do they let the emotion out, fits, yelling, arguments, drinking, etc?
2020 is best described as a roller-coaster and the new school year will likely be the same. There are going to be ups and downs and more changes that we can count. Allow time for yourself and apply grace! We are all doing the best we can. For more information on emotional regulation and coping skills, please reach out to us and we will help you get started with a clinician that specifically meets the needs of your family.