The past 14 months have been a dangerous whirlwind for parents and their children. Some children excelled during the quarantine, while others struggled mightily. But however they experienced COVID-19 life, they will all face a new set of obstacles as they prepare to resume their previous lives, or whatever the new version of “normal” will look like. Whenever parents decide their children are ready to get back out in the real world, there is some prep work they need to do beforehand to make sure things go as smoothly as possible.
Support and expectations
Parents always need to empathetic and understanding with their children, and this summer, those qualities will need to be on display more than ever. Their children may be dealing with more emotional confusion than ever as they are forced to navigate the challenges of growing up in the context of a return to their former lives. As always, talk to them about what they are feeling, validate their concerns and assure them that you will be there no matter what.
If your child needs additional help coping with the upcoming changes, don’t wait too long to start getting that help. There are options for low-income therapy online, and parents and children can also call 211 Miami to speak with operators trained in directing children to get the help they need.
Once parents get a handle on what their kids are going through, support and encouragement should follow, as well as a discussion on what to expect when they get back out in the world. This will help ease their concerns and anxieties and parents can support them by talking about it. Though dialogue is critical, so is modeling what we are asking them to do. Don’t forget to talk about all the positives involved in getting back to their old lives, including seeing friends, going out and more freedom and independence.
Practically speaking, it’s also important to get your children on back on set schedules, especially if adherence has waned over the course of the pandemic. Getting back on the schedule will help them deal with hours away from home, just as it provided structure when they had to deal with hours stuck at home.
Don’t Wait to Get Them Back Out There
Even if your child is only scheduled to go back to school in the fall, preparation should start as early as possible. Enroll them in summer camp, summer sports leagues and other activities outside of the home if you can. or help finding the right camp for your child, visit The Children’s Trust website (www.thechildrenstrust.org) closer to the summer or Miami-Dade County’s website that lists camps by type at www.miamidade.gov/global/recreation/home.page and searching for “Summer Camp at Parks.”
Help with the transition to the outside world is particularly critical for teenagers. Getting a summer job might still not be an option for most kids, but one way to help check all the boxes for Miami-Dade rising 10th- through 12th-graders at public schools is to sign them up for the Summer Youth Internship Program (SYIP). The program provides in-person, virtual and hybrid paid internships over five weeks in the summer.
Kids in the internship program will be doing real work at real companies or organizations and getting valuable experience for their future. The program is the perfect activity for the summer, as they can be productive, social and professional at different companies and organizations spread throughout the county. Have your child talk with their assigned school champion to see about signing up for the program. Registration continues through May. Visit getmyinterns.org for more information.
Though the challenges of the pandemic are still present and promise to be here for years to come, getting our kids back out in the world is now a priority to ensure they develop fully. It’s time to provide added support and encourage our children every step of the way as they navigate the new social emotional obstacles involved as society reopens. They will continue to take their cues from us, and we have to be steadfast and supportive if we want them to follow suit.
Associate Director of Programs Bevone Ritchie, M.S., oversees a wide range of parenting and youth development programs across the county for The Children’s Trust. For more information, visit thechildrenstrust.org.