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Tips for Parents to Help Their Kids Cope with “Increasing the Bubble”

For months now, we have been waiting for news on when and how we will get back to our new “normal” after COVID-19. Now, as we begin to see our world slowly opening back up,  be aware that your kids may have more questions, more anxiety and more worry over the coming weeks.

While this is uncharted territory for most of us, there are things that parents can do to help kids understand why “slow” is the way to go, and taking this approach may help decrease the worry that they may be experiencing from all of the unknowns they are required to process every day.

Tip #1: Stores are different now – prepare your kids for the changes they’ll see when they’re out.

It’s important to remember that although you have, most likely, been out to the stores over the past few weeks and seen all the changes (e.g. people wearing masks, plexi-glass up, lines on the floors indicating safe distances, etc.), this is all new to your child.

You’re going to want to tell them before you go out about the changes you’ve seen at the stores and the “rules” you would like them to follow so that expectations are clear. Suggestions for rules: don’t touch anything unless asked, keep a 2m distance from everyone except me, cough into your sleeve, be polite, try to remain calm.

Trips to the store can break up the monotony of pandemic living, but as a parent, it’s best if you let your kids know how the world has changed and what your expectations are before you head out.

Tip #2: Review the Recommendations

As we move into Phase 2 of opening our province back up, it’s important to keep up to date on what the “recommendations” are, according to the Province of BC (or whatever province you’re living in) and share them with your kids. Keeping your kids informed on updates that are pertinent to them (e.g. how many friends can they play or hang out with) may help decrease your child’s worry or anxiety about doing something “wrong”.

If your child is doing online schooling, they’re going to be discussing their lives and what they are and are not allowed to do. It will be important to discuss your family’s rules with your child as they may differ from those around them. Be clear on what your expectations are and provide your child with reasons as to why you are implementing each rule. Most children/youth/teens with anxiety like to have a plan and explanation of the plan. Maintaining order and scheduling may help decrease anxiety/worry.

Tip #3: Check in on how your child is feeling.

This tip may seem like a no-brainier, but parents have a lot of emotion going on and some days they get wrapped up in all the to do’s, chores, updates, etc. that they forget to verbally check in with their children and ask how they’re feeling about life, school, their friends and the pandemic they are living through.

This tip is simple: do a feelings check-in and walk through each area of your child’s life including home life, school life, online life, friendships they have and emotions they may be going through. It will also be important to check in with them after they’ve gone out to see how they managed and how they’re feeling about all the changes they may have noticed.

This leads to Tip #4.

Tip #4: Keep lines of communication wide open with everyone in contact with your child.

Similar to Tip #3, this tip is all about communication. However, it’s not only important to check with how your child is doing emotionally, it’s important to check in with how they’re doing on all levels – and not only with your child.

If your child is doing online school, check in with their teacher to see how they’re doing while “at school”. If your child is participating in extracurricular activities virtually, check in with their coach or their leader. Teachers, coaches and other leaders in your child’s life can provide important insight on how your child is coping in these different situations.

You can then take the information you learn from the other areas in your child’s life and talk things through a little more easily than if you weren’t armed with that information.

Communication is incredibly important with your child and with the people in your child’s life. Talk, talk, talk with your child, with the people in your child’s life and get involved and in-the-know about how they’re coping in the many different parts of their life.

And finally –

Tip #5: Have fun and try to lighten up a bit.

We’re living through a pandemic and it’s very difficult to do it well 100% of the time. As our world opens up, remember that we can still go out, have fun, laugh and enjoy life together. Although there are highly regarded recommendations to be followed, life still needs to be fun, silly and as light as we can possibly make it during these times.

Try to have fun with your kids and live life as happily and joyfully as you can.

Good luck, Parents. For more resources on how to talk to your kids about mental health or COVID-19, please check out the Parents Section of the Stigma-Free Society’s COVID-19 Youth Wellness Toolkit. There is a TON of information and activities in the Toolkit including Conversation Cards, videos to explain COVID-19 and activity generators to help keep life light and fun!

Author, Lindsay Goulet, Parent & Community Development Manager of Vancouver Island