Social Distancing: Making the Most of Life at Home

Containing your tween’s COVID-19 anxiety contagion

Posted Mar 14, 2020

Kerkez/iStock
Source: Kerkez/iStock

Keeping calm in the age of coronavirus may indeed be a challenging task. As a parent of a tween the pressure of ‘keeping calm and carrying on’ is indeed essential. Your child is at that awkward age of uncertainty. Tweenhood is the development period when kids begin to shift their focus shifts from the nucleus of family to the outside world. They are more aware of world events and actively watching. They look to you for reactions, guidance, and support.  If you present in a frenzied panic, your kids are sure to follow.

In an effort to contain the virus many schools are temporarily closing their doors and taking the teaching online. It is important that you support your kids as they negotiate this new way of learning. 

Information is power

It is likely that your tweens have heard the term “social distancing’ being bantered around. You however, are charged with the task of explaining what it means and why it is important. Use your resources to gather a firm understanding. The CDC offers comprehensive information. Your kids may get anxious and even annoyed if school is out but they cannot spend their time engaging in group activities with friends. Your fully informed tween may still argue with you. Remember as they get closer to teenhood they begin to subscribe to the principal of the illusion of invulnerability-the idea that bad things happen to other people. It is your job to hold the line.

Striking the Balance

Many of us have also are able to work from home. While others have been suddenly stressed to find swift childcare solutions.  For those working from home it quickly becomes about striking the balance between putting in a day’s work while tending to the needs of your tweens. Their tendency toward “me, me,me,” thinking is developmental, not personal. It will take some time to adjust to a new rhythm, as you establish new routines.

Structure is paramount to surviving the stress

So, how are you and your tweens going to survive the sudden interruption in daily life? Structure and predictability are your best resources. Start by creating a daily schedule. Sit down with your tween and create it together. Program in time for academics, meals, and of course down time. It is also important to program in social time. At a time when social distancing is the rule, technology offers wonderful opportunities for your tweens and you to stay connected with friends and family. This social interaction should be an integral part of their daily schedule.

Consistent connection can help stave off feelings of isolation, boredom, and even hopelessness. Physical activity is also a great way to remediate stress and anxiety. Set aside time in the morning to review the schedule. Bonding time together is a nice way for you both to start your day.

It’s far from perfect but we do the best we can

Depending on how your child learns you may face challenges and frustrations. These are indeed tough times and you may feel that you have no way of knowing how your tween will react. Take a deep breath, take a step back. Remember with confidence that no one knows your child better than you do. You are doing the best you can, and so are they.

Honesty outweighs avoidance

Your tweens are likely to have many questions. This can be very anxiety provoking for you as a parent. In great part because you may have the same questions and few answers. Authentic answers are the best approach. If you don’t know, tell them gently and kindly. It’s not what you say but how that makes all the difference. The goal is to prevent promoting panic. At all costs fake competence and reassurance. Your tweens are too smart, they are likely read avoidant answers as signs of concern and caution.

Mindfully manage the information

Avoid blaring the news 24/7 in your home. Make a concerted effort to watch the news with your tweens. Monitor their access to social media. Memes about this crisis are abounding. While many of them maybe funny, being barraged by these words and images can negatively impact your tweens who lack the impulse control to take exposure in moderation.

Deal directly with their disappointment

The fallout of social distancing has meant that many things we all have looked forwarded to have been postponed and even cancelled. These postponements and cancellations may seem inconsequential given the circumstance, but to your tweens they may feel devastating. The worst thing you can say to your tween is that everyone is dealing with disappointments. This will feel invalidating. Instead, tell them how sorry you are. Offer support and empathy. It won’t make the disappointment go away, but at least they will feel heard.

Focus on what you can do

Don’t let you and your kids get caught up in the frustration that social distancing can encourage. Stop focusing on the limitations and focus on the options. Pull out the mixer and plan a baking extravaganza!

Let laughter and a positive attitude set the tone

You have an opportunity to make these unchartered waters a real adventure for you and your family. A positive attitude can really set a productive tone. We all live such busy lives. Turn these trying times into a positive option. Celebrate this chance to connect with your family. Laugh often! The best way to stave off anxiety and fear is with confidence and connection.

It may feel scary to face the challenges of the brave new world we are all experiencing. Remember this is only temporary. We will all be back to our old routines with perhaps some minor tweaks in no time. Social distancing can seem frustrating and concerning for both you and your tweens. Always remember that your tweens take their cues from you. You are their rock star, their beacon of hope.