Preparing for the New “Normal”

It’s hard to believe that we are 15 months into the Covid-19 pandemic. I hear from patients and friends that every memory of the past year and a half seems both like it happened yesterday and like it was a lifetime ago. Getting back to “normal” is going to take some effort as we have gotten used to the distancing and may have anxiety about how safe normal is. This is particularly true in families with children. While the majority of adults are vaccinated or planning to do so, we are still not at the point of vaccinating children under 12. This leads to questions about what the summer, and ultimately the next school year, will look like. Every day we are given new information about what is or not safe. So, how can we move forward into post-Covid life?

  • · It’s OK to feel ambivalence about going back into the world in a more normal way. While most of us are yearning to see our loved ones and get back to normal activities, it also takes effort. Getting back to normal may or may not put us at risk for exposure to the virus, and with it not being clear how long the vaccines are effective before we may need boosters, there is anxiety about risks of returning to office, school, and social activities. Live with the ambivalence and see what feels right for you and your family.
Children and teens have been affected differently.
  • Children and teens have been affected differently than adults. Although they were already more familiar with the technology required to stay connected, they are also at times of development and transition. One ninth grader recently told me she hoped her friends didn’t forget her, as she is one of a small group still learning remotely and not participating in the normal high school activities in the same way as some of her peers. Upperclassmen may have missed formal dances and graduation, sports seasons, or babysitting and part time jobs. To them, this loss means the world and should be acknowledged.
  • Chances are that normal will be new and different. I’d be surprised if anyone in the corporate world found themselves in an office five days a week, but rather, will probably work from home some days and in-office some days. Even those who are tired of going from the bedroom to the guestroom for work are not eager to commute to Manhattan or elsewhere. This could allow parents to attend more school day activities or work from home if a child is sick.
  • As the weather allows for more outdoor activities, it’s important to let your kids get outside to play and see friends. They’ve lost a year of social development, and it’s important for them to get back to the “playground politics” with their peers. This is particularly true of older children who have been vaccinated and can congregate more safely. Teens need to test the limits, break some rules, suffer the consequences, and practice social interactions and relationships.
  • Be open to change. Nothing right now is the same from one day to another, which is anxiety provoking. But we’re all in the same boat, suffering the same anxieties and uncertainties. Never has the advice to take one day at a time so spot-on.

Barbara Kapetanakes, PsyD. practices psychotherapy in Sleepy Hollow.

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About the Author: Barbara Kapetanakes Psy.D.