The emotional toll that the Covid-19 pandemic has taken on us is enormous. Our lives have been dragged back and forth as a result of lockdowns, social distancing, and many other social gathering limitations that have impacted every aspect of our lives, including our relationships.
Keeping physical space between people who don’t live together was critical during the COVID-19 pandemic. As governments have decided to lower the social distancing limits, returning to our daily life with a mask and unknown parameters can be stressful and anxiety-causing.
For children and young adults especially, it’s difficult to anticipate how we’ll handle our return to in-person school following online schooling. Many of us, without a doubt, are not prepared to return, and yet here we are. Despite the fact that school systems differ from one country to another, the difficulties that children face are more or less the same around the world. Students who are returning to school this fall may be feeling the pressure, worry, stress, and anxiety that comes with the change after a lack of social contact owing to lockdowns and other restrictions.
COVID-19 pandemic school closure and online learning have worsened some of the systemic vulnerabilities that students and families were already facing, such as poverty, displacement, and racism. Researchers report significant increases in people’s anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder. A recent study by Duckworth et al. (2021), found that high school students who learned remotely (regardless of gender, race, and ethnicity, or socioeconomic status) had lower levels of social, emotional, and academic well-being than students who learned in school. Moreover, returning to school also involves periodic quarantine of students if there is a confirmed case and their friends leading to isolation at home or hospitals.
Younger children are adaptable and flexible, but attempts to safeguard their health may make new child care and school settings more difficult. If you are a parent you may be hesitant to enroll your kid(s) in an early childhood education program since you may be unable to readily visit and interact frequently with the childcare provider or teacher.
If you are a parent of older youth, you may be more apprehensive about how your child will maintain their safety without your guidance with the current safety protocols in the school. You may also be concerned regarding how your child will adapt to a newer school environment with distancing in the classroom and limited social opportunities with peers.
So, how do we cope as a parent and a child during this return to school phase of their lives? Good stress management techniques and practices can be highly beneficial in this scenario to prepare for these stressful and uncertain times.
Establish better communication
We have a tendency to mentally navigate our anxieties in isolation. One of the most beneficial strategies is to communicate how we cope with uncomfortable emotions with others. This can be done as a daily ritual during dinner time or having a good discussion or as you are getting ready to put your child to bed. Encourage your children with positive remarks (such as “I am so glad that you shared that with me”) when they share their feelings or emotional experiences with you. This will create a positive association with communication.
Tiny techniques of tackling stress
There are many small ways that you and your loved ones can manage daily stress. The easiest of all is taking a deep breath, counting down from 10 to 1, or going for a quick sip of water, doodling, playing with your pet, watching a light-hearted television, listening to a piece of soothing music, engaging in hobbies, learning something new.
Educate children on ways they can still enjoy playtime and peer engagement during this transitional phase. Play and exercise are crucial parts of a child’s development. Make sure that your children are receiving opportunities and dedicated times to engage in these forms of activities. You can also engage them in exploration to various outdoor venues such as state parks and hiking trails.
Power of Now
Most of our lives we spend either ruminating past experiences or worrying about the future when our true existence is in fact the “now”. When we are experiencing the present moment we are most engaged with our thoughts, emotions, surroundings, and people. Research has proven that mindfulness practice can be highly effective in bringing present moment awareness and even managing our stress. When we are faced with uncertainty, I believe that mindfulness practices can assist us in feeling more grounded, calm, and in the present moment. To learn more about various mindfulness practices, you can visit this website “link”.
A pool of research has shown its benefits in various areas and psychologists have found how mindfulness practice improves both mental and physical health. For adults, mindfulness practice has emerged as an effective method to manage stress, anxiety, depression, and work productivity. For children, it helps with stress, anxiety, improving focus and emotional regulation. Mindfulness practices entail paying attention with your mind and body to the current moment and accepting your experiences and emotions without judgment.
Ways to teach mindfulness to children
- Breathing exercise with a toy (breathing bear)
- Engage children in an art activity
- Slow stretches
- Visual imagery practice
- Spidey senses
- Glitter jar activity
- Gratitude practice like naming three daily good things before bed
Isn’t it amazing how merely tuning into your thoughts and feelings can have such a great impact on your entire body? According to the researchers, it is believed that the benefits of mindfulness are tied to its ability to reduce the body’s response to stress, therefore with worries about sickness, finances, and isolation, coping with grief from loss.
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused worldwide trauma for the whole of humanity. The slow and steady transition is much harder than anticipated. We are still struggling to find a balance between the safety of our family and the need for social connections. This transition is uncertain but filled with the hope of going back towards “normal”. The only assurance we have is to take care of ourselves and our families during these unknown times. The techniques suggested here are a few of the many you can try to aspire to and create healthier, happier, and resilient lives for your families and communities.
This blog written by Thoinu Karam, Family and Consumer Sciences intern.