If you're a parent, the period of self-isolation due to COVID-19 may have been a difficult adjustment for you and your children. Similarly, the idea of going back into the world might leave your kids feeling anxious at the idea of another big change, or they could be looking forward to things going back to “normal” only to find that life isn’t quite as they remember it.
It’s important to talk to your children about what to expect as they re-enter the world outside of your home. Remember that it doesn’t have to be an awkward “sit down on the couch” type of lecture. Instead, aim for a comfortable conversation where your kids can feel free to ask questions and voice their concerns. You might also find yourself returning to the subject in several smaller conversations after a bigger discussion.
Here are a few tips to do that.
1. Brush up on the basics. Doing some homework before discussing what changes are in store for your family can help reassure your kids. Start with the question: What do government guidelines say will change as self-isolation rules relax?
2. You don’t need to have all the answers. If you’re unsure of a topic that comes up in conversation, don’t guess or make something up. Instead say, “I’m not sure about that. How about we research it together?”
3. Think ahead of time how these changes will impact your family. How will your work, social life, and school schedules will change? Will mornings and evenings look like they used to, or will commutes and routines differ? Will you be allowing visitors in your home? Discuss these with your partner, so that you’re united before you talk to your children.
4. Focus, focus, focus. Give your undivided attention to kids when they need to talk. Turn off the TV, or any devices, look them in the eyes, listen, and empathize with their concerns. If the lines of communication are already open, your child will be more likely to turn to you if and when problems arise.
5. Ask them what news they’ve heard. If your child is an adolescent, they may already be recieving news from friends or online sources. This can mean that they're tuning into news sources that aren’t reputable or are giving out false information. Show your children what government agencies and health authorities can be trusted online and bookmark those pages so that they’re easily accessible.
6. Keep it age appropriate. Different ages and stages require a different approach, so be sensitive to the issues that are relevant to your child now. Ask kids pointed questions to determine how much they already know and how accurate the information they’ve received is. If they have assumptions about how life after self-isolation will affect them, give them space to talk about their ideas, and be sure to clarify any misconceptions they might have.
7. Stay positive. Sometimes children can be reluctant to change but keep reminding them that the government and health agencies are invested in keeping all of us safe. Remind them that these changes will mean that, depending on your area, they’ll get to see their friends in person and they may be able to reengage with their favourite activities, sports, and clubs.
8. Set boundaries and communicate them clearly. If you have set guidelines for safe socializing with friends, write them down and post them on the fridge. Remember to communicate why these guidelines are important.
9. Make it clear that, if they’re struggling to cope, help is available. The pandemic has brought feelings of anxiety and depression for many people, including kids. If your child is having difficulties adjusting, let them know that you’re available to talk to about any worries and fears they might have. The federal government has created a mental health portal that addresses specific concerns surrounding COVID-19, there are a lot of great resources available here.