As we navigate new times, we must put or mindfulness tools into practice not just as people but as parents.
Our family will be moving to a new state next month. This last week we flew with our two children, stayed in a hotel and ate take out or drive through food all while looking for a home. Oh and this is all under quarantine, which means masks at all times, public restrooms in short supply and new social rules in every store or place we visited. We have been sheltering in place since March and I have done my best to keep my kids at home but this was a necessary trip and I learned something from this trip, I think I need to share.
Kids need to be around people. I know you knew this and I knew this too but keeping them home for so long has changed them. My daughter who has always been introverted and reserved is even more so now and I see little social anxiety popping up. My son, who is almost five was not his normal self in public. He was touching everything, crawling on the ground, talking too loud, sharing things that he shouldn't be sharing, etc. For our older children, this pause may not be too bad but I believe that when they finally return to school, their anxiety levels will be higher than normal. Uncertainty causes many of us to feel anxiety and the uncertainty of what changes have occurred will be hard for many children to navigate. They have all grown physically, emotionally and mentally during this pause.
My husband said that kindergarten classes of the 2020-21 school year will need more socialization than any other class of the past. And I think he's right. Some of these kids will not have used a restroom other than their own for months and depending on who they live with they may not have been able to talk with or play with another child for months.
So what can we do as parents to help our children be less anxious and ready to be around others? I have some ideas but since this is all new, we each need to examine our child's own needs and go from there.
When you feel comfortable and safe, start taking your kids out of the house. This doesn't mean you have to take them to a store, even just take a walk around the neighborhood or go for a drive.
When you do take them out, go over the new social rules so they aren't surprised by masks or distancing.
With your younger children, role play school and go over things like how to ask to play with someone, how to eat around others, how to use a public restroom, etc.
Ask them what they know about the pandemic and see what questions they have.
Ask them what they miss about school and what they are looking forward to about school when it reopens (this may be a good way to see if there are any anxieties).
For your older children, talk about this pause as a time to redefine themselves and return to school in a new way. Ask what would make them feel more confident in school (maybe practicing math skills or getting a new hair cut, etc).
For your older children, remind them that everyone else is going through the same pause.
If you can, set up virtual play dates through FaceTime or zoom.
Find a new skill or hobby for your child to try over the summer to help boost confidence and channel energy.
Practice basic reading, writing and math skills over the summer to keep them fresh and less anxious about being behind.
When and if school begins in the fall, make it as exciting and normal of a process as possible.
Try not to talk about how them being home is hard on you or a burden on you. Also try not to talk about school reopening as an if. Try to keep it positive.
Watch out for obsessive compulsive habits popping up having to do with cleanliness. If you see your child overly stressed about germs or being clean, it is time to talk and revisit hygiene in a calm way.
Use the tools of mindfulness: yoga, journaling, meditation, calming music, healthy eating, nature, as much as possible every day for your kids.
I think the most important thing to remember that if this world wide pause is stressful for adults, it is stressful for children. It is important to look for signs of stress in your child and have open conversations.