How to help your family adjust to post-pandemic life?
There’s no denying that the last year or so has been tough for most people. The risk of infection that you and your family faced was likely a huge source of stress. You’ve also likely had to make adjustments to your work schedule to cope with the additional remote schooling and childcare responsibilities. However, the successful rollout of vaccines could spell an end to the most extreme aspects of quarantine soon.
While this is certainly something to celebrate, that’s not to say that this return to some semblance of normalcy will necessarily be easy. After spending more than a year living a very different way of life, making another set of changes may well represent another period of adjustment for you and your family.
It is therefore important to take some time to consider how you can make this return to normalcy as smooth and stress-free as possible for everyone involved. Let’s look at some areas for you to focus on.
Create a framework
Sometimes it can seem as though the way to approach times of crisis is to just push ahead and deal with issues as they arise. However, while you can’t predict every problem that might come your way, approaching your family’s adjustment to post-pandemic life can benefit from some planning. Don’t necessarily treat this as a strict roadmap to success — that prevents you from being flexible and can just add stress. Rather, seek to create a strong framework that supports your family.
This begins with helping everyone to understand what the challenges might be. Get together and discuss what is happening, a vague timeframe you expect it to happen in, and — perhaps most importantly — what concerns everyone has. This could include steps to keep your family safe or worries about going back to school. Write these down; visualizing the issues can make them more manageable. Then, work together to prioritize these and start to explore potential solutions. Remember, you can’t expect easy answers for everything, and everyone needs to be aware that this won’t always be possible, but it gives you a positive jumping-off point.
Review what elements or concerns you may be able to exert some control over and make plans to address them well in advance. For instance, if you feel that making a healthy transition for your family could clash with your ability to return to in-office work, it could be wise to consider remote positions. As technology has improved, there are many jobs that are now practical to undertake remotely that may not have been previously. Even registered nurses can work from home in varied roles; health informatics, education, and telephone triage among them. Whatever shifts you have to make, give yourself time to review them and create that framework to approach them.
Ease into it
A sense of panic can exacerbate the stress that you and your family feel as you start to make your transition into the new normal. Sure, a lot of people are keen to reset to how things were before the pandemic, and it can occasionally feel as though the government, authorities, and school systems want to rush into reopening. However, it is more important to remain aware of what your own family’s needs are, and take the time you need to ease into change.
Having spent a year largely operating from the confines of your home, it is only understandable that there may be some anxiety to immediately return to in-person spaces — that can be an overwhelming prospect. It can be wise to attempt to take this in steps. Many workforces are actually starting to adopt hybrid remote and in-person operations in the long-term, and indeed it is predicted that the future of schooling will contain a hybrid approach. This can act as a stepping stone for you or your children to get back into regular arrangements. Talk to your employer or your children’s principal about what can be done to accommodate this.
Even if there are expectations to return to the office or school at the same time as everyone else, that doesn’t mean to say that you can’t ease into these routines. Set up some practice runs in the weeks beforehand — particularly if you have younger children who may struggle with returning to preschool or daycare after such a long period away. Take time to gently reintroduce those morning routines of waking early, getting dressed, and eating breakfast together. Take the journey a few times and practice saying goodbye. Perhaps most importantly, take time to talk to everyone involved throughout these practices so that you can address difficult emotions and make adjustments.
Among the most important ways to help your family adjust in your return to pre-pandemic life is simply being mindful of how you’re being affected by it. Throughout COVID-19, people have reported experiencing “quarantine fatigue”, in which the influx of stressful uncertainty alongside being effectively trapped indoors took its toll. However, the fact that things are starting to return to normal doesn’t mean that such issues will disappear. You or your family may well find that you are experiencing symptoms of fatigue through the fear, anxiety, and sleep problems exacerbated by depression at this time.
The key through difficult adjustments is to keep talking to one another and ensure that you each put in place a routine of self-care. Check in with yourself and each other, take time to understand what may be causing feelings of anxiety. There aren’t always going to be immediate solutions, but it is important to recognize what is happening to yourself, and acknowledge that it is perfectly natural to feel that way given the circumstances. Instill a culture of being kind to each other throughout your family unit, and reinforce the importance of taking time to indulge in activities that make you happy or bring you a sense of peace.
The approach of the new normal, while positive, might represent a source of anxiety in your family. As such, it’s important to take time to prepare your family for adjustment, and take steps to ease them into the changes where appropriate. Above all else make time to be cognizant of how difficult this time can be for everyone involved and apply regular self-care.