Summer of Re-entry – Thinking About Kids

 In Colorado Spirit

Welcome to the Weekly Well-Being Connection! Each week we will share advice from our clinical experts on ways to care for your mental health and well-being throughout COVID-19. 

We are excited to share this piece written by Lori Loretta, LPC. Lori worked with the Colorado Spirit Team at AllHealth Network as our Child Specialist before transitioning to a new role at AllHealth Network. We are happy she could share these thoughts, reflections, and tips before she transitioned.

After about a month of summer break with kids, the Colorado Spirit Team at AllHealth Network has noticed that re-entering the busy world feels like a new type of stress because we’re not used to it anymore. Last summer, the pandemic had many of us hunkered down at home avoiding gatherings with anyone outside of our household. This summer, vaccines have allowed more freedom, but with that freedom comes some confusion about how to make plans when some family members are fully vaccinated and others are not. We are starting to see things open up a bit more and restrictions lift. While one would think that would create a sense of relief and excitement, as a parent of two children under the age of 12 it creates more hesitation and uncertainty when deciding on activities that we as a family engage in.

My children are 6 and 8 years old. Both have experienced remote learning and separation from close family members. They experienced several COVID-19 exposure scares. They have experienced my “work from home frantic self” to meet their needs and my work needs. They have endured and survived a difficult year where all that they knew completely changed. In a summer where the world seems to be turning again and activities are more accessible, I find myself wanting to reward them and rush them to every opening whether it be the zoo, an amusement park, the movies, a farmer’s market…anything…

I must remember they are not eligible to become vaccinated, that children at their age could carry the virus without necessarily showing signs or symptoms, and that they could still contract COVID-19. Then my hands go up in the air and I am stumped. “Well, was our excitement about summer finally arriving… a false sense of normalcy?”

I say no! As a parent, it is my responsibility to ensure their safety and well-being; both physical and emotional well-being. There are only so many days they can jump on our trampoline or take our dog for a walk without starting to feel defeated. So, as I navigate this new chapter in our lives, I decided there are ways to get out of our home, precautions and measures we can continue to abide by so that we may all feel a release from the hold of COVID 19.

So, what can we do this summer to ease our children back into “normal” life?

As a therapist and as a parent, I recommend staying in tune with your own feelings and stress around re-entry. Ease into these new, yet old, activities you once experienced and have longed for this past year.

Plan ahead and create a transition plan. Spend time together as a family identifying activities you are comfortable engaging in, places you are comfortable going, whether you will be wearing a mask or not. Creating contingency plans could help too. Design a plan for how to return to social events: Will you host an event? Will you go to highly populated events or homes? Will you allow your children to go to others’ homes for playdates? Can they go inside or just outside? Don’t be afraid to make multiple plans for the various scenarios under which this big transition affects your family.

Below is a list of home based activities for a rainy day or a day you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed.

  • Make a picture book with drawings
  • Take a family photo and decorate a frame (dollar store treasure)
  • Make journals (or start a summer journal)
  • Living room/alternate room campout
  • Make a time capsule
  • Do the Home Depot crafts
  • Try a fun Science project
  • Make friendship bracelets
  • Do a family puzzle
  • Play dress up
  • Learn a new board game
  • Make a board game
  • Paint rocks(then, put them around the neighborhood or trail)
  • Make sun-catchers (or dream catchers)
  • Make paper airplanes or paper boats
  • Create a COVID-based photo album

As many of us may want to run out there and catch up on lost time, I suggest taking your time and easing into these activities as sudden and unexpected transitions can affect moods, energy levels, sleep patterns, and stress levels. Start out slow by adding one social event or two each week and see how everyone handles it.

Intentionally practice open communication with your family about what is working and what is not. Keep in mind that unanticipated feelings may arise and, as parents, it’s important that we validate our children’s feelings and help them understand their feelings are normal.

There may not be a “getting back to normal” because COVID times have changed us. We are different people now, and so are our kids. Fifteen months is a long time to have limited contact with friends and family. Their interests and friendships may have changed. So, don’t move backward and try to pick up where we left off; move forward and know that you can always reevaluate what your family needs.

After hearing my decision with my family to ease back into the community with certain planning aspects in place, I would hope that you would give yourself some grace knowing that no one has the perfect transition plan, no one has all the answers for your family, that you know your family’s needs the best – and if appropriate, create your plan together and have some fun this summer! Do not feel guilt around allowing your family to ease back in to another “new normal.”

If speaking to someone would help, please reach out. AllHealth Network provides several supports.

  • To speak with someone in the Colorado Spirit Program about stress related to the pandemic, please call 720-707-6789 or visit our webpage at allhealthnetwork.org/Colorado-Spirit
  • For information about other services at AllHealth Network or to get connected with ongoing behavioral health support, please call 303-730-8858. AllHealth Network is continuing to provide service via telehealth or by phone and our Crisis Walk-in Center remains open 24/7.

If you are experiencing a mental health crisis and are in need of immediate assistance, please call the Colorado Crisis Hotline at 1-844-493-8255 (TALK) or text TALK to 38255.

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