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7 Expert Tips to Handle Difficult School Drop-offs

You can help your kids feel safe and secure about school.

Day one of school came, and we were ready to rock. Excited to see friends, make new friends, and launch into a new adventure. But then we got to the front door, and our kindergartener lost it. She didn’t want to go, and the tears flowed. We made it through days one, two and three, and then we were a week in. As we figured out routines for a successful school morning drop-off, each day was better than the one before.

Then, quarantines hit, and school closed for a time. We had to start the process all over again. School drop-offs can be difficult for many kids (my 5-year-old despises it). It becomes more challenging when you have to alter routines due to things out of your control, like a pandemic. 

It’s important to recognize and validate your children’s feelings. They may be anxious about a new place, new people, or the ever-changing schedule.

These tips from experts can help you  navigate school drop-offs like a pro:

1. Talk about what’s going to happen.

Know your school’s drop-off policy and where your child will go. Create a morning routine that works for your family. Also, let your child know when you’ll be back to pick them up. The more comfortable they are with the daily routine, the more likely they’ll be able to accept and even look forward to the morning drop-off.

2. Make sure everyone is rested.

Good sleep goes a long way in preparing for the day. When you’re crafting the morning routine, give yourself plenty of time to get ready too. We’ve found that we need to get up at least 30 minutes before our kindergartner to make the morning less stressful. 

3. Create a goodbye ritual.

When my son started school, we came up with a secret handshake. He looked forward to it every day, and it helped him mentally transition. My daughter has crafted her own goodbye ritual. Work with your child and come up with a goodbye ritual that makes them feel more comfortable. Maybe it’s a secret handshake or a hug at a specific spot on the way to school. 

4. Offer a comfort object.

A source of comfort can be helpful if your little one is anxious about going to school. Check with their teacher to see what they can and can’t have. Maybe it’s a small stuffed animal in their backpack they know they can’t take out during the day. Perhaps a keychain clipped onto their bag or a family picture can remind them of home.

5. Arrive early.

School mornings are stressful, and that stress level can go through the roof when you’re running late. Plan to arrive early. Schedule in a buffer time so your child isn’t feeling rushed. Whether that’s getting to the car line early, arriving at school in plenty of time to walk them to the door, or getting to the bus stop in time to talk for a few minutes. Arriving early can lower everyone’s stress levels.

6. Make it quick.

I had a friend tell me recently that when she dropped her son off for his first day of daycare, the teacher said the best thing you can do is say bye and leave. This is so true; painful, but true. The longer you linger, the harder it is on them. Often, when a child enters school, they are mentally transitioning to the day ahead. My daughter’s emotional drop-off on the first day of school only lasted a couple of minutes, and then she got busy with her day.

7. Stay positive.

Another thing you can do to help your child have a successful drop-off is to stay positive. Our stress and anxiety can quickly transfer to them. If you’re confident and optimistic, they are more likely to do the same. 

This school year looks to be full of unknowns. Each week, we don’t know how many days we’ll be in school or how our routine will be thrown off. We may experience that first-day drop-off anxiety numerous times, and we can help by being upbeat and positive. It may not be easy, but our kids don’t need easy; they need safety and security, and we can help them feel safe about school.

Sources:

How to handle difficult school drop-offs, according to a maternal wellness expert

Crying at Drop-Off – Perfecting the Preschool Separation

Other blogs:

How to Help My Child Handle Anxiety

8 Back to School Parenting Tips

Back to School Tips

How to Start School Routines

4 Ways Having a Routine Contributes to a Happy, Healthy Family

How to Talk With Your Child About Tough Topics

Your conversations with them are teachable moments.

Half of parenting is staying a step ahead of our kids. (The other half is stepping out of the way.) Where do you step when the tough topics come up with your kids? Sex, drugs, rock and roll? 

If only it was that easy! Try sexual politics, depression, and race relations. And don’t forget those frequent Big Cultural Moments when half of our country is screaming and the other half is rage-tweeting. 

You can take that next step confidently.

Stay A Step Ahead…

1. Remember the Goal.

The goal is to have ongoing conversations with your children that teach them how to be critical thinkers and allow them to process their own thoughts and feelings. It’s not about having all the right answers; it’s about validating their curiosity and their ability to ask questions.

2. Remove Conversational Obstacles.

Sometimes these crucial conversations don’t materialize because we don’t make room for them. We’re too busy or too distracted. Be where your kids are. Be conversationally available. Some talks you’ll have to initiate. Some talks spontaneously generate. (Here are some conversation starters you’ll love!)

3. Relationship Capital Rules.

Invest the time. Build up the relationship capital you’ll want to draw on for those tough topics. This means you spend time together not angling for The Big Important Talk. Just enjoy spending time together. Don’t sleep on silliness. You might be goofing around, talking about nothing, when it suddenly turns into something. 

4. Remain A Reliable Source.

Our kids have a sixth sense for insincerity. Can they count on you when it comes to the little things? Like it or not, our kids are always sizing us up. They’re watching us and wondering if we can handle their hopes and fears. They won’t come out and say they don’t trust you; they just won’t say anything at all. 

… And Know When To Step Out Of The Way. 

1. Listen. Don’t lecture.

Sometimes your child needs a good, firm “listening to”. Hold back and let them have it.

2. Respond. Don’t react.

Keep your cool when you hear something you disagree with. If you are dismissive or defensive, your child will shut the conversation down. Admit when you don’t know the answer and find a way to find it together. If the conversation is getting a little heated or the volume is getting turned up, be the adult; be the parent.

3. Investigate. Don’t interrogate.

Sometimes your child’s real question is masked by the question they actually ask. Learn to listen between the lines. Often, our kids need to work their way around to sharing what’s really on their minds or what they really want to ask. Be patient and leave some room for their thoughts to unspool and take shape. Ask clarifying questions. Ask questions that expand the conversation and invite your child to lean in closer, not pull back and withdraw.

Parents, By All Means, Teach Your Children.

You are the best resource for your child. Share your values and beliefs. Many parents underestimate the influence they have on their children. Research consistently shows that young people want their parents to talk with them about tough topics. Let them know what you believe and why concerning these issues. This will help them learn the process of determining what they believe.

There’s no shortage of voices willing to speak into your child’s life. Media. Social media. The kids on the bus. The classroom curriculum. The entertainment industry. Consumer culture. All of them are ready to step up and shape your child’s thinking on all the tough topics. What’s your next step?

4 Ways to Help Your Child Deal With Anger

How to Help My Child Handle Anxiety

How to Have the Porn Talk With Your Kids

7 Ways to Deepen Your Connection With Your Teen

5 Ways Self-Determination Theory Can Help You Raise Independent Kids

You can find the balance between control and independence.

Over the last 9 years, I’ve been constantly reminded that parenting is all about the balance between control and independence.

During the early years (3-8), your child is figuring out who they are while you’re learning how to parent them. It’s tough. And it gets more challenging when kids are trying to assert their independence. 

Most parents probably want to raise independent, strong children who grow up, leave home, and are successful. We want them to start a family if they’d like to, and we want to be there for it all. Helping them find independence in those early years is where it all starts. 

But giving freedom and autonomy means giving up some control. How in the world do we do that?

This is where self-determination theory can be helpful. 

Psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan introduced self-determination theory (SDT) in the 1980s. Self-determination theory suggests that people perform at their best when three needs are fulfilled: 

  1. Competence: People desire mastery of skills. When they are equipped with the skills needed for success, they’re more likely to take action to achieve their goals.
  2. Connection: People need people. We need a sense of belonging and attachment.
  3. Autonomy: People need to feel in control of their behavior and goals.

Highly self-determined people tend to:

Believe they have control over their own lives.

They are motivated, and when presented with challenges, they will work hard to overcome them.

Have high self-motivation.

They don’t depend on external motivators to achieve their goals. They will set goals and work toward them.

Base their actions on their own goals and behaviors.

They will take steps to bring them closer to their goals.

Take responsibility for their actions.

They will accept the praise or the blame for their choices and actions.

Those are all traits I desire for my family. We can help our kids grow in this by improving self-awareness, decision-making skills, and goal setting. Now, we understand what SDT is and how it can help our kids become self-determined. So how do we help them develop self-determination?

Here are a few scenarios where you can practically apply SDT to help your kids become more independent:

1. Dressing themselves

One of the easiest ways to help your kids gain independence is through dressing themselves. Let them choose what they want to wear, and don’t complain when they do. Sometimes we just gotta accept that they may not match. Yes, we have run errands with a 5-year-old wearing ladybug wings and antennas. No big deal! 

Pro-tip: If you need their clothes to match for a special occasion, give them some options. There is still independence within boundaries.

2. Household chores

Ask yourself, what can they do? 

Here are some ideas:

  • Unloading the dishwasher. My kids started helping when they were 3 or 4. (Don’t worry, we keep the knives out of reach). 
  • Setting the table. Sometimes that means you might eat off the kids’ dishes, and that’s okay. 
  • Helping with laundry. My daughter loves to fold laundry. Does she do it well? No. But she does it, and we are thankful she does. 

3. Daily tasks

Some tasks need to be done in the morning or afternoon. Ask your child to help you make a list of what needs to be done each day. Where possible, tell them what needs to happen and by when but give them the freedom to get it done on their terms. They know what needs to happen, but they have the independence to determine how they do it.

4. Non-structured, free play

Do you ever feel like your child wants you just for entertainment? I do. But that wasn’t my childhood. Sure, times have changed, but we can still encourage our kids to imagine and create. If they don’t know where to start, give them some ideas and turn them loose. It’s amazing what my kids will come up with when left to their own imaginations.

5. Weekly schedule

Life’s busy. My kids are busy with school events and sports. That means we try to plan out our week. We like to have a family game night and a movie night, and we often let the kids decide what those nights look like. We have also scheduled free Saturdays. They can pick where we go and what we do within reason (because the 5-year-old would have us headed to Disney). We set the boundaries, and they get to pick what happens. 

Helping our children develop self-determination early will help them become independent as they grow. The process isn’t always easy. As they gain independence, you have to give up some control. Be patient, and remember that encouragement and positive feedback go a long way in raising independent kids. 

Sources:

1. Self-Determination Theory

2. Self-Determination Theory Application

3. Self-Determination Theory: How it Explains Motivation

How to Find a Good Counselor for Your Child

You're the best person to find a good match for your child's needs.

Imagine being an 8-year-old and dealing with all the stuff they are dealing with today. As a parent, you can see something’s just off with your child. Maybe your kid’s teacher, guidance counselor, or some other adult in their life has noticed it. And now you’ve decided to take the brave step of finding a counselor for your child. Because you care so much, not just any counselor or therapist will do: you want to find a good one.

Here are some tips on finding a good counselor.

Don’t be shy to ask your network of people you know.

Ask your child’s pediatrician and talk to the school guidance counselor. Mention it to church youth workers. Definitely ask your friends. You may find out that more people have experience with child counselors than you thought. However, when you ask, be sure to ask what makes their recommended counselor good. I mean, just because they know the counselor doesn’t mean they are a good counselor. Or that he or she is the right one for your child.

Dr. Christina McCroskey says she and other pediatricians often hear from parents about which counselors are effective. Your child’s doctor may also have a better idea of what type of care your child may need.

Figure out all the letters.

MD, Ph.D., LMFT, LCSW, MSW, LPC. You’ve heard the terms psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, family counselors, therapists, etc. It can be overwhelming when you’re starting from scratch. Here’s a good list of different designations for mental health professionals. Like I said, your pediatrician can help you choose what your child needs. That’s a great place to start.

Gather your thoughts and be specific.

Whether someone recommended counseling or you’ve decided to go this route on your own, take some time to write down your concerns about your child and any potential triggers. It’s easy to get nervous on the spot and forget critical details. Writing it down can help you accurately communicate your concerns.

Research.

Ask around about counselors. Get on the internet and read their credentials, articles, or blogs they may have written. Check out their social media accounts. Find out how much experience they have. Learn what their areas of concentration are. You want someone who’s experienced working with children, not just counseling people in general.

Interview Potential Counselors One-On-One.

Good counselors should be used to being vetted to determine if they’re the best fit. You can do this in person or by phone, and maybe even through Zoom. If they are resistant and try to rush you to an appointment, move on to another counselor. 

When you talk to them, ask…

  • About their experience working with children.
  • What methods they have used with children in their practice.
  • How the parents are included in the process.
  • How they differentiate between medical conditions and behavior issues.
  • If they have a particular specialty.
  • What they do to stay current in their practice.

Questions to ask yourself afterward:

  • How did I feel after talking to them? Did I feel inspired, hopeful, and encouraged? You can speak to some counselors and feel like they are life-giving while others are so heavy and gloomy. 
  • Did I feel heard and understood? Were they genuinely listening to me or quick to diagnose and tell me what we needed? 
  • Were they empathetic?
  • How would my child receive them? You know your child well. There’s a good chance that if you didn’t feel like they connected well, they might not connect well with your child.
  • Is this person truly an advocate for the family?

Listen to your gut.

It’s ok for you to talk to multiple counselors until you find one that just feels right. I wouldn’t introduce the child to the counselor until you’ve chosen one.

Schedule a consultation.

Many counselors will schedule a one-hour consultation with new clients before asking you to commit your hard-earned dollars to their practice. If so, use this opportunity to learn more before you make a choice.

“As adults, it’s important not to assume that our youth can handle emotions. If we as adults struggle (with a fully developed brain), imagine the difficulty our youth are having with a developing brain and body,” says psychiatrist Dr. Cassandra Simms:  

By taking your time, practicing patience, and showing due diligence, you are the best person to identify who can best help your child. Demonstrating your strong love by getting your child the help they need will be something that will pay off for years to come.

Other helpful blogs:

How To Make Sure Your Child Knows You Love Them

Is Your Child Depressed?

How to Prevent Depression from Affecting Your Child

How to Help My Child Handle Anxiety

How To Find a Counselor for Your Teen

Here's what you need to know to make a great choice for your teen.

If your teen is struggling, you want to fix whatever’s wrong and try to help. And maybe they need help, but chances are, they’re going to talk to someone else before they talk to you. Right? Well, if they need to talk and they won’t talk to you, you’ll want to do everything in your power to find someone who will lead them in the right direction and encourage them to make good choices. That’s why finding a counselor for your teen just may be the answer you’re looking for. 

A counselor can be a great resource to help your teen manage any number of issues they may be dealing with. But the process doesn’t have to be overwhelming. 

Think about this: finding a counselor is a lot like interviewing folks to fill a job position. When hiring someone, you want to find the right fit. 

It’s the same with choosing a counselor for your teen. You wouldn’t want to hire the first person to walk into a job interview. It’s the same with choosing a counselor; it’s wise to “shop around” and find the best fit for your teen. 

But how do you go about doing that?

Here are some helpful tips for finding a counselor for your teen: 

Do a search.

Finding a counselor in your area can be as easy as an internet search. But be sure to look at reviews. Check over their website, and ask around about counselors you may be interested in. 

Don’t underestimate the power of a good recommendation. Ask people you know who have used counselors. Therapists often specialize in adults and adolescents, so don’t discount the ones adult friends have seen. 

Pay attention to the credentials. 

You wouldn’t want to hire a person without the right qualifications, and it’s the same with choosing a counselor. Except this is your teen who needs help. Here’s a simple breakdown of what counselor credentials look like:

  • Counselors are either licensed or unlicensed by the state where they practice. Licensed counselors have initials after their names, like LPC, LPCC, LCPC, or LMHC. They hold a master’s degree or higher, have completed a certain number of supervised training hours, and have passed a licensure exam. Ideally, you should seek out a licensed counselor.
  • Some unlicensed counselors are working toward either their advanced counseling degree or licensure. They usually offer cheaper rates and must disclose the status of their services. Because they work under the direct supervision of experienced therapists, these counselors can also be very helpful. 
  • Some counselors are psychiatrists (PsyD or MD). This means they hold a medical doctorate, can diagnose mental illnesses, and can prescribe medication.
  • Some people advertise themselves as counselors but are not licensed. These professionals may or may not hold advanced degrees in areas of counseling or psychology. When seeking the services of unlicensed counselors, it’s wise to use caution. 

Ask a potential counselor questions before the first session. 

Consider questions such as: 

  • Do you specialize in child and adolescent therapy? 
  • How long have you been in practice? Are you licensed by the state? Is your license current? 
  • What issues do you specialize in? (Counselors will typically specialize in depression, LGBQT+ issues, addiction, or other issues that may pertain to your teen’s situation. These are usually spelled out on their website if they have one. Be sure to ask if you don’t see an issue that pertains to your teen.) 
  • What kind of approach do you use with your teen clients? (Most counselors have theoretic approaches they use, but don’t let the psycho-babble throw you off. Get a sense of how the counselor relates to their clients in a way that’s understandable to you.)

Consider the financial aspect.

Check to see whether a counselor accepts insurance and, if so, whether they are in-network. Some counselors base client fees on household incomes (called a sliding scale). Fee payment schedules can also vary from counselor to counselor. Some require payment at the time of each session, while others allow a certain number of sessions to go by. Be sure to ask about how the counselor handles their client fees. I understand that many parents don’t plan for the expense of counseling, but it’s well worth the investment. Mental health is that important.

Ask what to expect with confidentiality. 

If a counselor chooses to conduct sessions privately with your teen, ask how they handle confidentiality. Don’t assume the counselor will share everything your teen says in the counseling room. Counselors work under the state laws and codes of ethics that direct them as to how to handle client confidentiality. Ask the counselor about this before the first session so you will know what to expect. 

As a parent, your teen’s mental health is a top priority. And you want their counselor to be effective. Good counselors are out there; it takes a little digging to figure out who can best be helpful. If you feel there’s no connection between the counselor and your teen after a few sessions, keep looking for a counselor who will be a better fit. Your teen will be more open and make better progress if they feel comfortable with their counselor.  It’s worth it! 

Other resources:

How You Can Help Prevent Suicide

How to Prevent Depression in Teens

Five Strategies to Help Your Teen Deal with Post-Pandemic Anxiety

*If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, there are a number of websites and organizations with excellent resources for you. HelpGuide is a great place to start, along with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Teens experienced a lot of stress during the first round of the COVID-19 pandemic. They switched to virtual learning. They were isolated from friends. Sports got canceled. Celebrations were delayed or just didn’t happen. All these things had a significant impact.1 We thought it would all be over by now. And it looks like it is all on the verge of happening again. And it looks like it is all on the verge of happening again.

After COVID seemed to come to an end, many teens started experiencing symptoms of what scientists and doctors are calling “post-pandemic anxiety syndrome.” Yep, it’s a thing.

This syndrome is marked by an overwhelming sense of worry during this post-pandemic/repeat period. For some, the anxiety may stem from a lingering uncertainty about safety. Is the virus still a threat? Are we sure I can take this mask off? Am I still in danger? Should I put the mask back on?

For others, the cause of anxiety seems to be a product of flip-flop thinking. We know that our brains can train themselves to think in a certain way.2 Your teen has had over a year to adjust to new and sudden precautions, rules of social distancing, and risk management during extreme uncertainty. 

As if that’s not stressful enough, now we’re experiencing an almost equally instantaneous shift back to pre-pandemic life while there’s so much uncertainty about the variants. Take off the masks, go back to the ball fields, get ready for school. Some teens are celebrating. But for many, the anxiety increases.3

If your teen is showing some signs of post-pandemic anxiety, you can help them. Try these strategies to help them deal with what they may be experiencing. 

1. Keep the dialogue open.

Be open to your teen voicing their worries, fears, and stress to you. Let them know you’re a safe place for them to express their thoughts and feelings without judgment. Avoid pushing the issue if they don’t want to share, but keep that open door in their sights. If they know you are in their corner, it makes a difference. 

2. Normalize their feelings.

Your teen may feel weird or abnormal because of their anxiety. They might think that no one could possibly understand what they’re feeling. Reassure them that our whole world has been through a lot, and those anxious feelings are normal. There’s nothing wrong with them; they’re not “less than” because of their worry. Remind them that it’s how we go about coping with anxiety that is important. 

3. Coach them to get plenty of sleep.

In general, teens typically get less sleep than they need for proper health and development. But a healthy amount of rest is vital for coping with anxiety. Evidence is strong that sleep deprivation negatively affects mental health.4 The CDC recommends 13 to 18-year-olds should get 8-10 hours of sleep a night for optimal health.5 Encourage your teen to hit the hay at a decent hour so they can take care of themselves.

4. Avoid making your own diagnosis.

You’re worried about your kid, and that’s completely understandable. You can see signs and symptoms of anxiety or stress. But professionals are trained to translate these signs into what precisely the problem is — not us. You want to be careful not to jump to “anxiety disorders,” “depression,” or other conditions in a knee-jerk reaction, especially to your teen. They can easily feel labeled. They may also interpret the label as an identity that can’t be fixed (e.g., I have an anxiety disorder; it’s who I am). This is obviously detrimental to how they feel about themselves, and it can magnify the troublesome feelings they are having. 

5. Consider getting help from a professional counselor.

If the signs you see are persistent or worsen, it might indicate that you need to seek a therapist for your teen. Keep in mind that it might not be a popular choice in your teen’s eyes. But often, intense feelings of anxiety and worry are so much that we need more advanced tools to cope with them. That’s where a counselor is beneficial.

One last thought from one parent of a teen to another:

There is always hope in conquering mental health challenges. Anxiety is manageable. And your teen stands the greatest chance of overcoming post-pandemic anxiety when they know you’re cheering them on. 

Sources:

1Freed GL, Singer DC, Gebremariam A, Schultz SL, Clark SJ. How the pandemic has impacted teen mental health. C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, University of Michigan. Vol 38, Issue 2, March 2021. Available at: https://mottpoll.org/reports/how-pandemic-has-impacted-teen-mental-health.

2Berg, S. (2021, June 11). What doctors wish patients knew about post-COVID anxiety. American Medical Association. https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/what-doctors-wish-patients-knew-about-post-covid-anxiety 

3Hunter, R. G., & McEwen, B. S. (2013). Stress and anxiety across the lifespan: structural plasticity and epigenetic regulation. Epigenomics, 5(2), 177–194. https://doi.org/10.2217/epi.13.8

4Talbot, L. S., McGlinchey, E. L., Kaplan, K. A., Dahl, R. E., & Harvey, A. G. (2010). Sleep Deprivation in Adolescents and Adults: Changes in Affect. Emotion (Washington, D.C.), 10(6), 831–841. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0020138 

5Sleep in middle and high school students. (2020, September 10). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/features/students-sleep.htm 

7 Strategies to Help Your Child Deal With Post-Pandemic Anxiety

Demonstrate your love, compassion, and care while walking them through their challenges.

Children, like adults, were struck with a sudden bombshell when COVID-19 arrived on the scene. Everything changed abruptly. Think about it. One day, they’re at school and seeing their friends. The next day, they’re home for an extended period. They’re isolated. Their world changed: masks, loneliness, increased family time, canceled activities, etc. The structure, predictability, and consistency kids need to thrive: gone. That’s a tough experience for a child to live through. It was even hard for adults.

As kids come out of the pandemic, it’s no wonder that so many are experiencing anxiety. Recent studies suggest the pandemic may be having a more adverse effect on adolescents than on adults.1 According to Dr. Bradley S. Jerson,2 your child may be dealing with post-pandemic anxiety if they are…

  • Spending a lot more time alone
  • Sleeping a lot more or less
  • Withdrawing from family or friends
  • Not interested in their favorite activities
  • Having changes in their overall mood
  • More irritated or angry
  • Stuck on negative thoughts
  • Hopeless about the future

As their parent, you want to help them manage their anxiety and adjust to normalcy.

These strategies can help your child deal with post-pandemic anxiety.

1. Be aware of your own mental health.

The Child Mind Institute states “that dealing with your own anxiety can be the most powerful way to make sure your kids feel secure.”3 Your children take a lot of their cues from you. So do whatever is necessary for you to be in a good space mentally. Practicing good self-care will equip you to help your child.

2. Give your child space and freedom to talk through their emotions.

What young child can do that by themselves? Not many. Try to ask questions in a gentle, non-judgmental way. Try, “What do you feel when we make plans to go to the supermarket or back to school?” This lets them know that whatever they’re feeling is acceptable and even normal. Studies show that after an event like a pandemic, mental health issues such as anxiety are common.4 Child expert Dr. Gene Beresin recommends that parents consistently listen and validate their child’s thoughts and emotions. This can help them transition to post-pandemic life.5

3. Create some routines, predictability, and consistency.

Children thrive when they know what’s coming. And it helps them adjust and know who to turn to for the things they can’t foresee. Morning or nighttime routines are helpful. Picking them up from school at a consistent time is also good. Several studies have shown that eating family meals together is beneficial for kids’ mental state.

4. Ease them back into their norms when possible .

Dr. Jill Ehrenreich-May and Dominique A. Phillips recommend taking smaller, manageable steps to move forward.6 Instead of going to an indoor birthday party, have your child choose a friend for an outdoor play date. Pick people and places that are most comfortable for your child, and use those spaces to help them overcome the paralyzing effects of their post-pandemic anxiety.

5. Talk them through what’s being done to keep them safe.

Young children look to their parents for security, safety, and protection. Asking your child what would make them feel safe can help them address their anxiety. Explaining what makes a situation safe helps build their trust in you as their parent to protect them. 

6. Get support for your child.

If your child continues to struggle, talk to their pediatrician, a school counselor, or find a therapist. Don’t hesitate to ask your child if they’ve had thoughts of self-harm. **If they have, call or text the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 (24/7).**

7. Celebrate the positives.

Dr. Jerry Bubrick, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, encourages parents to look for anything positive they can celebrate.7 Sometimes, we spend so much time focusing on what our kids won’t do. Instead, highlight the good stuff they’re doing: the family time you’re spending together, the books they’re reading. This can help shift their mentality and calm their uneasiness.

Each child responds differently to change. Your love, compassion, and care in walking them through their challenges are often the most crucial ingredients to helping your child deal with change, fear, uncertainty, and post-pandemic anxiety. You got this!

Sources:

1 The psychiatric sequelae of the COVID-19 pandemic in adolescents, adults, and health care workers.

2 Connecticut Children’s

3 The Child Mind Institute Anxiety and Coping With the Coronavirus

4 Life in a post-pandemic world: What to expect of anxiety-related conditions and their treatment

5 Gene Beresin, Executive Director of the Clay Center for Young Healthy Minds, Full professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School

6 Here’s How to Help Your Kids Break Out of Their Pandemic Bubble and Transition Back to Being With Others

7 Jerry Bubrick, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute

Dear Dad,

Can I ask you a question? When you found out you were going to be a dad, were there parts of you that thought, “I’m gonna crush this. Everything my dad wasn’t around to do, I’m gonna do, because I’m not gonna be like my dad…”? Or did you say to yourself, “I don’t know how to be anyone’s dad. I had no one to show me how to be a good dad…”?

It seems like being a good dad would be a lot easier if you had someone who showed you all the things you’re supposed to do. There’s a part of us that believes we can figure out everything on our own. Every once in a while, you may get a reality check when someone else notices there’s something you didn’t know. 

Without a dad to tell you what you’re supposed to do, it’s normal to make mistakes. 

And it’s ok to not know how to do something. How would you know the right time to just give a good, strong hug if you weren’t shown by your father? Are you a bad dad? Probably not. Could you be better? Couldn’t we all? Is it a bit of a disadvantage to not having someone show you the way? Quite possibly. Is all hope lost? Far from the truth.

Shaunti Feldhahn’s research shows that men often worry that they don’t have what it takes. We fear that one day the people closest to us will find out. When I heard that, it hit my heart. I thought to myself, “When my kid finds out that I don’t know how to do the dad stuff, then they won’t respect me or even like me.” 

So what do you do?

You keep faking it and you keep being there. Keep being present, and keep listening to your kids’ stories. You keep telling them the little bit you do know. You keep making mistakes with them. Keep taking them places with you and keep hanging out. You keep hugging them when they hurt, challenging them when they say something that doesn’t seem right. And next thing you know, they start looking for you because they want to talk. They want to share their success and get encouragement after their failures.

One of the biggest things you can learn from your dad is to never run away. 

Because if your dad did, you know how it feels. And that’s what hurts the most. Instead, lean into your children. Running away could mean leaving the family. It could also mean running away from talking, from dealing with issues, from being open and vulnerable, or running away from what you don’t know.

It seems like every good action movie has an amazing running scene where the hero is running into a dangerous situation. (Will Smith got famous from his Bad Boys running scene.) Fellow dad, run into the situation. Run to your kids. Run to the hard stuff in their lives. That’s how the heroes are made. Not just in the movies, but also in the heart of your child.

Other helpful blogs:

How to Be an Emotionally Safe Parent

4 Ways To Be A More Present Parent

How to Be a Supportive Parent

5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Became A Dad