As we start to take the first steps to transition out of lockdown, we’re having to navigate yet more uncertainty and the anxiety that it brings. While we are settling our little ones back into their schools and nurseries, we know there’s a possibility of our children having to self-isolate or even their settings temporarily closing due to COVID-19 cases. Some of our friends or family may feel more comfortable socialising than we do just yet and we’re unsure how to cope with this, balancing our children’s need to see their friends with our own fears.
Acclaimed author and Director of The Parent Practice, Melissa Hood took some time to share her expert tips on navigating parental anxiety post-lockdown.
1. Don’t worry about worrying!
Don’t beat yourself up about feeling anxious. It’s a perfectly healthy response to these challenging times and completely understandable. Many of us are feeling exactly the same way – avoid comparing yourself to others on social media, as we can guarantee most of them are experiencing some level of stress or anxiety, however perfect their life looks on the surface!
2. Stay informed and trust your team.
Make sure you know what you need to know to keep you and your family safe but avoid overwhelming yourself with information by setting a limit to only check safe, reputable sources once a day. Find out what your child’s nursery setting or school are doing to keep them safe and remember that teachers and nursery workers are professionals who are trained to deal with all sorts of emotional responses in children including separation anxiety. Don’t be afraid to ask the team at your child’s setting questions – settings and parents need to work together during this tricky transition to make sure they understand each other’s needs.
3. Look after yourself.
Calming practices such as meditation, mindfulness and guided breathing apps can be really beneficial to help quiet the mind and give us inner strength. Make sure you are getting plenty of rest and try to make time for yourself, even if it’s just a 20-minute walk or sitting in the garden listening to birdsong or some calming music. The calmer and more rested you the stronger you will feel and the more able to face any challenges.
4. Focus on what you can control.
We can’t control what happens in our community or how other people behave in response to it. Parents should decide what their own position is on going to areas which may be busy, using public transport or socialising with their own or other families. Don’t judge others’ positions and don’t accept others’ judgement either. Nobody knows the ‘right’ way to behave and no one’s experience of the pandemic is exactly the same as another’s. Be wary of social media which can be hugely judgemental.
5. Acknowledge and accept your concerns.
For some parents it may be helpful to write a list of your specific worries about how COVID-19 could affect you or your child, evaluating and challenging those anxious thoughts and dismissing those that are without evidence or are very low risk. For those that remain think of some ways to respond to those events if they should come to pass. If there are no obvious solutions consider whether worrying about the problem is helpful – sometimes we have to accept some uncertainty and understand that there is nothing we can do about it, so spending time worrying is not productive. Talk to somebody you trust and who cares about you about your worries – even if they don’t share them, simply talking about them will help them to seem less insurmountable.
Watch Melissa Hood's video tips on how to help children deal with their feelings