Our lives have changed. The rug was pulled from under our feet. We have spent a few months hovering between safety and minimal risk — juggling new roles, learning ways to stay safe, and grieving multiple losses.  

Now, as we contemplate the possibility of returning to some activities, we wonder, what are we walking into? The idea of “re-opening” may trigger excitement and hope. Yet, Covid-19 will be part of our reality in the foreseeable future.  We cannot return to our pre-Covid-19 lives, because that rug… is no longer there.

How do we guide our families in making a graceful transition? 

I invite you to consider the opportunity to co-construct this transition.  Starting with yourself as a parent, co-constructing is negotiating between your inner desire to take risks and your exterior sense of comfort/safety. Only you know where the right balance between risk and safety is for yourself. 

For the whole family, co-constructing is reaching compromises between your risk-safety balance and that risk-safety balance of others. Every human being has a different perception and tolerance of risk; and so do each family member, regardless of belonging to the same family!  If you find a middle point between your risk-safety balance and the risk-safety balance of another family member, you are honoring every one’s needs to some degree. 

Once the family has reached compromises that all members agreed to, two techniques can help with managing nerve-racking situations: gradual exposure and rehearsal.  

Gradual exposure consists of exposing ourselves to a situation in increasing amounts or intensity, slowly over time. We first become comfortable with a small amount/intensity by practicing relaxation and positive affirmations while in the stressful situation. When we feel comfortable, we move on to a greater amount/intensity of the same situation.  For example, if going to a store causes us anxiety, we can start with going to a small store for 5 minutes, while practicing deep breathing and listening to relaxing music with earphones. After feeling comfortable with the latter a few times, we slowly increase the size of the store and/or the amount of time that we can tolerate…until we reach the desired goal.   

It is also useful to rehearse at home in preparation for encountering real situations. We can prented-practice the sequence of steps we want to follow, while in the safety of the home. Following the same sequence later in the real situation is easier because our brains have already experienced the sequence while feeling relaxed.  

As we venture into the upcoming phases of our new reality, I remind myself of the serenity prayer. I wish for our families serenity to accept what we cannot change, courage to change what we can, and mindfulness to know the difference.