Reverting back to ‘Normal’

“Instead of constantly adapting to change, why not change to be adaptive?” – Fred Emery

We all handle change differently and the revelations of 2020 so far have forced us all to accept change and quickly adapt to our new ‘norm’ as best as we can. As parents, it’s more simple to rationalise the current state of the world, accept it, and adapt to change – in many ways it’s our survival instinct, but for children the process is a little more challenging. This article will explore the challenges children are now facing, the implications of these challenges, and how we can help them to work through this difficult time and fast adapt.

Kids have been removed from school, transitioned to online learning, been unable to see their classmates and friends, placed back in school and in some cases, removed again at short notice. Kids have seen loved ones become sick and in unfortunate cases pass away. They have been subject to far more stressful living environments, as parents lose jobs or incur pay cuts, or simply crumble under the pressure, panic and fear instilled by society. 

With restrictions (for the most part) having eased, most kids Australia-wide are trying to adapt back to some sort of pre-COVID normal, which is proving to be a major challenge for children, parents and schools. 

There are expected psychological implications of health anxiety, quarantine and isolation. In the short-term, this can result in a range of changes. Emotional changes may include confusion, anger, anxiety and depression, and behavioural changes such as insomnia, exhaustion, irritability, and avoidance. In time, kids generally bounce back and recover fully. In some of the more severe cases where the impact of trauma is significant, children may deteriorate further to cases of Acute Stress Disorder or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The right approach for your child will depend greatly on their psychological state. There are four key factors that can be used to help any child through this challenging period:

  1. Open communication – Ensure your kids feel comfortable coming to talk to you about their worries. Open up the dialogue and start the conversation with them as often as you feel may be necessary. This may be daily or a few times each week until they recover.
  2. Limit media exposure – We are all guilty of excessive media consumption. As adults, it’s a little easier to limit exposure and know when enough is enough. Ensure you set the right parameters for your child and only expose them to what is absolutely necessary. 
  3. Slow reintegration – Come up with a plan to slowly reintegrate your child back into society. You may begin with a short stroll around the park with a friend, or a trip to the local cafe to pick up an item of their choosing. Day by day, increase their exposure until they’re fully integrated. Having a plan to begin with can alleviate fear of the unknown. 
  4. Reassurance – It’s important to provide your child with regular reassurance. You don’t always need to solve their problems, but rather validate their feelings, and ensure they feel understood and supported. 

Whilst once a unified nation, Australians are now subject to very different living conditions depending on their locale. Borders have been closed, buildings have been completely locked down, and most Victorians have reverted back to Stage 3 lockdown with much uncertainty on what’s yet to come. Despite this, we are all fighting the same battle – we are doing the best that we can given our individual circumstances. After all, humans are creatures of habit and reverting back to normal will pose challenges to the best of us, so be kind, be patient, and show regard for humanity because what goes around, comes around.

If you’re struggling and looking to connect with like-minded others – be sure to join our Parent Hub on Facebook. There is much merit in being a part of a community, and working together through challenging times. Alternatively, contact a Parentline counselor for further guidance and support.