How to Continue: Embracing the New Normal
I have a friend with two elementary school-aged boys. The other day, the boys woke up and requested that their mother pack their lunches in lunch boxes. She complied and they proceeded to get dressed (like a typical school day), put on their backpacks, and then sit on the tire swing in their backyard. They sat for most of the morning. I share this story to emphasize that children (young and old) miss the mundane of their “old lives”. It is hard to fathom there will be no proms or graduations this spring. Moreover, there have been numerous canceled elementary school field days and fifth-grade graduations to celebrate the passage into middle school. It is like our kids have had a chapter ripped out of the book that tells their story. More importantly, their new realities are filled with social distancing, school closures, and a lot of fear. As parents and guardians, it is easy to feel helpless as to the best ways to help our kids cope. We need to strive to help this demographic of the population to adopt the recent societal changes and thrive despite the road ahead.
As we enter this season of adjusting to a new normal, the following are some ways that might ease the transition.
If you or your child/loved one is navigating the new normal
Delay major changes or decisions, unless absolutely necessary. It is important to keep your environments both familiar and nurturing. This leads to healing and comfort, even if the situation does not feel that way at first.
Find a sounding board. Maintain personal piece and preserve mental health by identifying a safe person to express yourself to. Whether you open up to a friend, partner, or mental health professional, just do it. Reach out and reach out often.
Be kind to yourself. Self-care is pretty essential right now. Positive self-talk is also just as important. Notice the internal dialogue that you engage in. Is it highly negative? Are you constantly getting down yourself for not “doing enough in quarantine”? Assess your self-expectations and gauge whether they are realistic and if you have the mental capacity to take on lofty, unrealistic challenges.
Give yourself permission to grieve. The world just lost a whole way of being. What was once normal human interaction, is no longer the norm. It is okay to experience or display grief upon this realization. The simple act of going to weekend brunch with your friends or attending a college football game is now a beloved memory. This new reality is vastly different from the one that we have always known, and it is expected to miss what once was.
Expect personal change.No matter how resistant you are or how hard it has been to adapt, acceptance of this new normal will take hold. As you do, be mindful of how you show personal growth throughout this process and celebrate it!
Helping your child/loved one navigate the new normal
Allow feelings to be felt. If your child/loved one is struggling with acceptance of the world around them, allow them to feel without trying to fix them or tell them how you would cope.
Practice patience.Adaptation and abandoning a familiar lifestyle take time.
Resilience varies in others. We all hold different thresholds for stress or dysregulation. If you are an individual who recovers and adapts more quickly from trauma or life change, do not judge or impart your expectations upon others who are still healing. Acknowledge this difference and offer support until he/she achieves resiliency on their own.
4. Remember that changes cause personal change. Impactful changes, like those incurred by the pandemic, can profoundly change a person. If you have a loved one who is navigating this new normal, please be mindful of the hurdles he/she is overcoming. Also, note that he/she may not be the same person after this major life event.