COVID-19 Re-Opening Anxiety Is Real
Simona lives in Edinburgh. Her elder daughter, 8-year-old Tilda, has been diligent during the quarantine. She did her homework, participated to online classes, read books, and played with her sister. The only problem is now that the lockdown is over, she seems to have lost interest in going out.
Marta is 3.5 years old. Last week, she went to see her best friend from school after 3 months of strict lockdown in Florence. She and her friend played gleefully, but when it was time to go, Marta started crying desperately. "I am never going to see her again," she told her dad. "Why?" asked her father, puzzled. "Because she doesn't live in my same building," she answered heart-broken.
Julia is 7. Two weeks ago she told her dad that if the school doesn't open soon, "There is no point in living. Because this is not a life."
Brandon is 2. Ever since the quarantine ended, his parents are having a hard time every time they go out because when he sees people that are not his parents - be it on the sidewalk or on the street - he screams.
These are just four of the many stories I collected from parents when I asked about their kids' experience of the lockdown.
Trauma of Lockdown
A study conducted in Italy and Spain found that 85.7% of parents noticed a change in their children's behavior or in their emotional state during the lockdown or after it ended. Children all around the world are experiencing the trauma of lockdown.
In many cases, children don't know how to behave when they meet other kids. They don't know if they can hug them or not because each family has a different policy and sometimes children feel rejected by other kids or they feel scared that other kids may touch them.
We may not realize it, but COVID-19 re-opening anxiety is real and it's creating a lot of trauma in our younger generations.
Finally, A Book For Kids
About The Pandemic!
Reserve your copy of Francesca's new book, Doctor Li and the Crown-Wearing Virus. (She co-created Goodnight Stories For Rebel Girls...this is going to be awesome!)
As communities and countries go through COVID-19 re-opening, our children have to process new rules for behavior and play.
But we must remember that COVID-19 re-opening does NOT make feelings of anxiety and worry magically disappear.
Parents and caregivers can lessen the worry and mitigate the trauma of COVID-19 re-opening with clear boundaries and open lines of communication.
Keep reading for 6 simple and effective strategies for navigating re-openings with children.
6 Strategies For Managing Kids' COVID-19 Re-Opening Anxiety
Limit How Many Kids Play So They Can ACTUALLY Play
Kids play in a very physical way, so the best option is to limit the number of kids your children can play with and allow them to behave naturally. Screaming Get back! every time kids get too close stresses everyone out. Pick a friend or two your child enjoys and stop there. If you're in an area that is re-opening with Covid-19 cases still on the rise, consider trying the Double-Bubble with another family. It will help with Covid-19 re-opening anxiety and save your sanity.
Set Expectations From The Start
If they are going to meet kids that are outside of their circle, make sure to set up the expectations for each kid at the beginning so that kids don't feel overwhelmed with responsibility. If your play date is with Jordan and Jill walks up, your child needs to know what to do. You can make it like a game:
"Today is a day we play.
Hugs for Jordan, but everyone
else, must stay 2 feet away!"
Talk Talk Talk
Make sure your children know they can discuss their fears with you. Create a safe space for them to explore their feelings about the pandemic and listen carefully. COVID-19 re-opening anxiety is not always visible, as is often the case with children (and adults!).
Try reading books, talking about the pandemic, journaling, or drawing. (Psst: My new book is a great place to start 😉
Describe School As Safe
If they go back to school, make sure to describe school as a safe space. COVID-19 re-opening anxiety will be strong when it comes to school. School is emotionally distressing as-is for a lot of kids. If we give kids too many warnings, they can start to see school as a dangerous place and this could jeopardize their well being there. Let them know that their teachers and school administrators are doing their absolute best to create a safe environment.
Get Your Kids To Tell You A Story
Ask your kids to tell you stories about what happened ever since the pandemic started. If you make this as a game, it can help your kid earn confidence that they know what is going on, and it can help you at the same time know what's going on in your children's mind and how they are interpreting your behaviors.
If your child is not keen on storytelling, trying drawing together. Together is key! Set aside 15 minutes to play and you'll be glad you did. Pick a subject, such as what our city looked like during quarantine or what will school look like when we go back.
Set The Rules And Stick To Them
Try to be consistent. It's hard, I know. The guidelines and rules seem to be changing all the time. But children need boundaries to feel safe.
When you establish a rule (no hugging, washing hands after we go out, face masks in public, etc.) try to respect it consistently. If you change it, let them know why you're changing it.
A New Way Of Life
COVID-19 re-opening anxiety is real, and not going away anytime soon.
I wrote "Doctor Li and the Crown-Wearing Virus" to help parents share a story with their kids about what happened and to give them a space to explore their feelings about the pandemic.
You can grab a copy at the (fully funded!) Kickstarter campaign.