Children are heading to school in a couple of months/weeks across the world after almost 1.5 years. All over the world, child psychologists as well different organizations which are dealing with children are advising that unless the schools are opened up shortly, we would be losing an entire generation of kids to online addiction. That’s the reason why most countries are contemplating opening up the schools at the earliest. But as a parent, we only know the extent of social anxiety that got built up in our children, due to staying at home for so long. This blog aims to discuss few practical tips to deal with post-pandemic social anxiety in kids.
What is Post-pandemic Social Anxiety?
Most people are thinking that once the schools reopen the kids would adjust automatically and a host of problems would get resolved automatically. But honestly, the children once enter into the schools would only start facing a unique set of challenges that hitherto went unnoticed. The topmost among them is the fear of stepping out.
We adults ourselves weren’t confident and kept worrying about the germs and infections while stepping out to buy groceries or other supplies. Then imagine the little individuals and the amount of stress they would be carrying around after they got to know that the schools are reopening. On one side, they are excited to meet their friends and teachers, but on the other hand, they are also worried about their safety. Some children might even experience separation anxiety from their parents along with leaving their safe space (that is house) and stepping out into the open areas.
All the different forms of anxieties that stem from the basic act of stepping out after the pandemic are called the post-pandemic social anxieties by child psychologists.
Most of the clinical psychologists and even AAP is advising that though the children seem to exhibit the initial excitement about going back to school after a long time would start experiencing this anxiety as the school reopening dates come closer. So parents do have a huge responsibility dealing with this post-pandemic anxiety and stress.
The parents need to reassure themselves first, that it’s safe and secure to send the children to school and then reassure them that it would be safe and beneficial for them to step outside. At the same time, we also should caution them to be observant of the situations and surroundings so that they can know when to back out and inform the nearby caretakers if needed.
Tips to manage post-pandemic social anxiety.
The following are some simple yet practical tips that we can use either on ourselves or with kids to beat this social anxiety.
- Acknowledge the feelings and emotions:
- Take baby steps
- Set up a routine:
- Reemphasize othe safety routines
- Its OK to take a pause if required
Acknowledge the feelings and emotions: Do you remember your child’s first day in school or in that big school/college? Show those pictures and talk about that day to your child. While narrating those stories, tell them how proud you are of them, as they were able to manage that separation anxiety in an efficient way. While discussing this, acknowledge and accept that social anxiety does exist in you and the child. And you all can together overcome this feeling by taking the baby steps.
Take baby steps: Instead of attending a crowded function or going to a crowded place, try taking them on small walks with limited friends and family in the lap of nature. Invite one or two friends of your child for a play date. That way, they will slowly start mingling with the kids of their own age or start talking and playing with them.
Set up a routine: The kids are used to the online classes and started attending them in their pajamas without having a full breakfast. They are also used to getting up late. Once when the school reopens, all these flexibilities would be lost. The kids would have to rush to the school to be on time. So start practicing pre-pandemic school routines at the earliest. That will avoid the mad rush at the nth hour.
Reemphasize the safety routines: The schools have opened up doesn’t mean that the social distancing can be ignored. So, reemphasize the need for the safety routines like social distancing, wearing masks, and sanitizing to the children. We need to talk to them in a positive tone about the safety measurements taken by the schools and teachers to ensure that the children are safe. Also, tell them about the importance of staying safe and healthy. Advise them that we need to take these small risks of stepping out, as life can’t just stop due to pandemics.
It’s OK to take a step back: If the child is not doing well or even if he wants to stay at home and enjoy his alone time, then it’s perfectly fine. All the children might not be willing to jump immediately and become social overnight. Some children might feel it’s overwhelming to be in the company of so many children suddenly. So they might need downtime or me time to calm their anxious nerves. So we need to give that flexibility to our children as well.
Every child and family will have different requirements about social time as well as downtime. We need to understand that life wouldn’t just return back to the pre-pandemic era, but at the same time, it’s not bad also after all. Once we have this open mind then things would start falling slowly, but steadily into the place.
Hence as parents, it’s our duty to teach our children to take their baby steps back into the outside world and be their anchors till the time they settle back in the outside world. The way we react to this situation would teach our kids how to be resilient and stay safe in uncertain and changing situations in the future. So make a lot of good family memories and stay as the main anchoring points in the child’s life till things return to normal.