Call it the parental pickle. Society has been opening back up as COVID-19 vaccinations are available—with traditional in-person school right around the corner. And yet, the delta variant of COVID-19 cases are on the rise and those under 12 still do not have access to COVID-19 immunization.
What are parents and caregivers to do? Clinical experts suggest they pause, reflect and then tap into resources that can help them feel more confident in their choices.
Anna Morgado, a licensed marriage and family therapist with Sutter Health’s Employee Assistance Program, reminds parents that a lot has happened over the past 18 months. The pandemic has had a profound effect on family dynamics—especially with kids.
“If parents are stressed, too, they aren’t always in the best place to respond” to the evolving needs and emotions of their children, she said. “This has been a time for big feelings: grief and fear. It is also the time to try and remove any parenting guilt and start with a clean slate.”
Morgado said it is important to consistently check in with your child. The outdated adage of “children should be seen and not heard” doesn’t apply. She encourages caregivers to listen and acknowledge their children. One simple way to do that is to repeat what they say. This action helps kids understand parents hear their words, which can help kids feel safer. Another way to support young children is to play with them. Play provides an outlet for younger ones to work out their feelings and emotions, so let them lead the way. Playtime could be for as little as 10 minutes a day or 30 minutes per week for parents.
“Caregivers are the most important people in children’s lives,” Morgado said. “Children just want to know that you are there.”
As kids near another transition—this time with returning to traditional in-person classroom settings—parents are needed more than ever.
Judi Vallero, M.D., a pediatrician with Sutter Medical Group, states that research continues to show the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccinations. They are widely recognized for “helping keep disease burden at bay,” including against the delta variant. Dr. Vallero encourages caregivers to strongly consider vaccinating their children once they meet the age criteria and getting all kids back on track with annual physicals they may have missed.
Even so, not all children returning to school are vaccine eligible. And those returning will more than likely wear masks. What can parents do to make themselves and their children feel safer about the process?
Dr. Vallero also points to the value of communication with kids. These conversations can be a good opportunity to reiterate the value of mask-wearing and physical distancing. For children who may have a mask phobia, parents can practice wearing them at home and during play. Families wearing masks in solidarity can also signal their support for younger kids. As children see their teachers and fellow students wearing them, their anxiety can lessen.
Dr. Vallero encourages parents to look for signs that their child may still be struggling. Behavior changes can include a shift in how kids normally act. Are they more withdrawn? Has their appetite changed? Do they no longer delight in things that used to bring them joy? Are their grades slipping? If so, Dr. Vallero said the time may be to reach out to a medical professional.
“If you have concerns or questions, contact your doctor. They remain a trusted resource for you and your family,” she said.
Note: This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.