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COVID-19: Helping Your Child Go Back To ‘Normal’

Getting back to the ‘new normal’ after the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is a transition. Here are some things that may help.

Child talking to adult

Coping with a pandemic has resulted in a complex few months for families.

What challenges has your family faced?

Take a moment to reflect on how your world and daily life has changed since February 2020.

Over the past few months, many families have experienced health/illness issues, fear, isolation, financial strain and a significant disruption to usual routine, such as online learning from home.

It’s understandable that your family might have mixed feelings and stress around returning to the ‘new normal’.

 

We asked parents on social media whether they were ready to return to normal, and 51% said they were not ready to go back to normal yet.

Understand your own feelings

Children are very perceptive and may be influenced by your emotions. It’s important to manage your own emotions, so you can be open to your child’s needs. For example, if you are excited or relieved to go back to normal, you may miss cues that your child is feeling anxious.

Here are some strategies for checking in with yourself and managing your emotions:

  • Take a moment to reflect on your thoughts and feelings around COVID-19, the past few months, and how you feel about returning to normal.
  • Reflect on your own words and behaviours around your child over the past few weeks. This isn’t to judge or blame, it is just a chance to be aware of any messages your child may have picked up from you, other family members or even the media.
  • Focus on meeting your needs, so you can support your child from a place of calm. You might need to talk things through with someone, spend some time doing things that help you de-stress, or even engage in some self-care.
  • Children can’t always verbalise their emotions or thoughts. Behaviour is a form of communication. Take some time to reflect on your child’s behaviours over the past few days. Have any of their behaviours been concerning?

Check in with your child

Here are some ways you can have a great conversation with your child:

  • Choose a time and place where you both feel calm and safe. Having a conversation during the day (anxiety is higher at night) and when you are next to your child (rather than opposite them) can help them open up.
  • Be curious. Ask open questions and give your child time and space to answer. You might start by asking them what going back to ‘normal’ might look like for them. What are they excited about? What are they worried about?
  • Validate their feelings, e.g. “It sounds like you are a bit worried about getting sick when you go back to school. It’s normal to worry about that. Worry can be a difficult feeling sometimes.”
  • Give them an opportunity to ask questions. If they ask a question you can’t answer, be honest that you don’t know. This is an opportunity to find out more together!
  • Create a plan together around returning to ‘normal’. This might mean talking about the routine for the first day back at school, or problem-solving fears like what your child might say or do if their best friend wants to hug them.
  • Prepare your child that there might be setbacks and that this is a normal part of change. It can also be helpful to have some strategies that might help them stay calm and seek support if things go wrong or they feel stuck.
  • Revisit social distancing practices and good hygiene. This can help your child feel empowered and focus on what they can control. Don’t forget to provide reassurance around measures and people who are helping us to stay safe.

It’s important to keep the conversation open. Let them know you will check in with them again and that they can ask any questions or come to you for support at any time. Make sure to have follow up conversations with them.

If you are struggling with your own anxiety around COVID-19 or going back to ‘normal’, Parentline is here to support you.

It’s also important to reach out for professional support if you are concerned that your child is more distressed than expected, is taking longer to recover or is struggling to cope.

This content was last reviewed 18/05/2020

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