It’s 2022 and, as we’ve already learned a zillion times over, the pandemic continues to be lose-lose-lose for parents. (Between the school closures and the childcare pressures and the lack of clarity on everything, it’s a lot.) But now, thanks to Omicron—and the scary similarities to March 2020—we’re fed up. And stressed to the max. But as we manage our own anxiety, there’s another group trying to temper it all: Our kids.
Yes, they’ve been here before, too. And yes, they’re armed with some of the same tools that we are—masks, access to a vaccine if they’re at least 5 years old, hand sanitizer. (Remember when it felt like it was forever sold out?) But Omicron is so much more disruptive than previous variants that it’s created a roller coaster of routine changes and it’s impossible not to notice. Classroom shutdowns? Confusing quarantine rules? The quick end to indoor playdates? Yeah, this hasn’t been lost on your children.
And bottom line: They’re feeling anxious and afraid, just like us.
So, what can you say to help them go through it? Dr. Mirela Loftus, psychiatrist and clinical director for Newport Healthcare, explains that the most reassuring words you can offer are: I’m worried, too, but we will get through this together.
In other words, you want to reiterate to your kids that they’re not alone and that you are there for them, while also validating their feelings and acknowledging the seriousness of the virus.
After all, it can be tempting to either downplay the situation (“Everything's fine!”) or let every one of your worries consume you. But according to the experts, the best thing you can do is convey availability and model appropriate responses to your own feelings. For example, you might say: "Not being able to see our friends makes me sad too; Let's make a list of all the games we’re going to play with Simone when we see her next."
But don't over-explain either. Loftus maintains that, when push comes to shove, sometimes a reminder that you’re there to hold their hand is all a kid really needs. (Of course, if the anxiety is really at a peak for your child, it may be worth chatting with a teacher or therapist about additional ways to help them.)