With some states reopening and other states shutting down portions of their economy, it is a confusing time for everyone about next steps, especially children. With this in mind, it is important to communicate your expectations to your children as your area begins reopening.
Experts at the Child Mind Institute recommend making plans with your family, but stress that the plans are flexible and may not happen for one reason or another. Children with high anxiety find it stressful when plans change suddenly, but prompting them ahead of time with the possibility will allow them the opportunity to make adjustments on their own.
Another topic to communicate with your children about is the expectations for when they leave the house. Children are probably excited to get out of the house, but may also feel a sense of anxiety about getting sick or getting too close to others.
“The very first thing I would recommend,” says Stephanie Lee, PsyD, head of the ADHD and Behavioral Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute, “is that parents and caregivers decide what’s comfortable for them and what the family rules are going to be about socialization moving forward. It’s important that whoever is running the show for these kids are all on the same page about what’s going to be safe.”
Once you have a plan in place emphasize that it is a gradual process and your family is going to move at its own pace which may be different from other families, and that’s ok. At the end of the day, everyone needs to focus on what works best for their families to cope with the ongoing COVID-19 situation. Explaining your thought process and including your anxious children in discussions about next steps will help lessen the anxiety and give them a sense of control. The Child Mind Institute has more information about ways to tackle anxiety as your family faces the “new normal” of our society.