Last week, we shared a few strategies for helping kids cope with pandemic-related stress. As we continue to emerge from the pandemic and more young people become eligible for the vaccine, kids will have more opportunities for social interaction. But after a year of Zoom school and stay-at-home orders, being around other people may be stressful, too.
A recent NPR story featured a nine-year-old boy afraid of returning to school. He is worried about exposing his younger sister to Covid-19 and nervous about being away from his mom. If you have kids, they may have similar concerns.
Some children will be eager to see their friends again, while others may feel anxious and require a more gradual return to normalcy. Listen to your child, and be willing to take things slow. This story offers an example:
I once knew a five-year-old boy who was scared of going into the ocean. He sat on the beach, far from the water, because the noisy, rough ocean was overwhelming and frightening.
His mother, a child psychologist, started playing a game with him. She dug a hole in the sand nearby and asked the boy to bring a bucket to the ocean, fill it with water, and bring it back to fill the hole.
At first, he was very cautious and filled the bucket at the edge. She asked him to fill the bucket again and again, and it became a game. He began to have fun and went in a little deeper. Eventually, the boy became accustomed to the water. He ran into the ocean, his fear forgotten.
This is what gradual re-entry looks like. Some kids will run right into the water the first day, while others will prefer to take things slowly. Start with a short playdate and see how it goes. Pay attention to your child's thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, and encourage them to talk about how they are feeling.
Re-entry can be challenging for adults, too—if you're struggling, these tips are a great place to start. For help finding a great mental health provider or additional mental health resources for yourself or a loved one, reach out to Better Health Advisors.