All through the pandemic, parents and their children wanted nothing more than to return to normal life: regular in-person classes vs. Zoom learning, daily interactions with their friends.
Finally this year most schools returned to the classroom, but in many cases, things still feel far from the way they were in 2019.
- There are frequently missing students and teachers as individuals test positive for COVID-19.
- There are mask issues and political clashes and safety concerns.
- There are staff shortages and strained relationships and home-schooling habits to unlearn and in-classroom behavior to relearn.
- There’s the worry that they may have rusty social skills or might have fallen behind academically.
This is all on top of the usual stresses of test-taking, extracurricular activities, and social pressures.
So what can parents do to help their children cope with the “almost normal” of life in 2022?
Don’t pry, but do try to be sensitive to changes in their mood. Try gentle prompts to encourage communication: “That must have been upsetting,” or, “I can see why that seems unfair,” or, “It seems like something’s bothering you. Would you like to talk about it?”
Guide, don’t overpower
As an adult, you can more readily see solutions to problems. So help your child brainstorm possible responses to things that are bothering them. But don’t take over the problem. It’s important for their eventual autonomy that they try to work things out themselves. If they seem stuck, you can make gentle suggestions: “Have you thought about ___?” or, “Would it help if you tried ____?”
Be a refuge
Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital says sometimes kids don’t always feel like talking about what’s bothering them, and that’s okay.
“Even when kids don’t want to talk, they usually don’t want parents to leave them alone. You can help your child feel better just by being there—keeping him or her company, spending time together . . . take a walk, watch a movie, shoot some hoops, bake some cookies.”
As always, family time can help kids decompress, but let kids have a say in planned activities.
“Family time is important but also build in plenty of free and creative time at home, because they have very structured days at school,” Alicia Tetteh, mental health therapist and founder of Building Endurance in Charlotte, N.C., told The Washington Post recently.