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How to ease your child back into world amid COVID-19 vaccines

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Little curly headed boy with mask on holding a small basketball looking anxiously out the window from inside a home.
In this article, you’ll find answers to questions like:  

1. How to approach the transition?
2. How to prevent confusion?
3. How to set the pace?  

For many children, it’s been more than a year since they’ve been in a classroom, on a sports field or even inside a friend’s house. As more Americans get COVID-19 vaccines, people are easing back into old routines. But is your child ready to resume activities?  

1. HOW TO APPROACH THE TRANSITION?  

Parents have seen their children’s reactions to the pandemic and its isolating restrictions, so they can weigh their behavior against this new set of circumstances and tailor conversations to their family.  

“How did your child initially deal with the change?” says Stephanie De La Cruz, clinical director for Center for Child Counseling in Palm Beach Gardens. “As your child adjusted to remote learning or curtailed social activities, did it affect them in a positive or negative way? How they reacted before can act as a baseline for introducing these new shifts.”  

2. HOW TO PREVENT CONFUSION?  

Explain expectations to your children and develop a plan for how to cope with this reintroduction phase, De La Cruz suggests. She recommends calendars and visual aids so children understand when things will happen and what the rules are.  

“For example, with schools, afterschool programs and maybe church gatherings, each scenario has rules, and they may be confused about them,” she says.  Talk through the guidelines, such as how to respond when others break the rules during this transition.  

Of course, it’s tempting to plunge back into life full throttle, but pare back pre-pandemic expectations, says Ali Cunningham Abbott, associate professor of Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Lynn University in Boca Raton.  

“Going back to school may elicit anxiety, so start small,” she says about children who may need more time. “Work with your child's school to create a schedule to support their needs.”  

3. HOW TO SET THE PACE?  

Parents can strive to be more flexible, compassionate and responsible as they plan for activities and routines that may seem foreign now.  

“This time is an opportunity to look at what you want to add back into your lives,” Abbott says. “Do it responsibly, and do it in doses.”  

Both counselors stress that this global pandemic will continue to impact us for years to come. But families should have confidence in their ability to handle new challenges, given how much we’ve learned and weathered since early 2020.  

Locally, the Center for Child Counseling offers therapies for children dealing with issues such as depression, anxiety, grief, parent-child relationship problems, anger management and behavioral issues. It accepts some health insurance but offers sliding scale fees if you have out-of-network private insurance. If you don’t have insurance, the cost may be covered by grants or Medicaid.  

For other local mental health supports, consider reaching out to Mental Health America of Palm Beach County or NAMI Palm Beach County. 

SOURCES:

• Ali Cunningham Abbott, associate professor of Clinical Mental Health Counseling, Lynn University; private practitioner, The Center for Treatment of Anxiety and Mood Disorders
• Stephanie De La Cruz, clinical director, Center for Child Counseling  

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