The Transition Back to “Normal”: Anxiety and Mental Health

This past year was filled with uncertainty and anxiety for many, regardless of age and background. For children with disabilities and their families, these feelings can be even more intense at times.

As we slowly return to “normal” or a more “normal” version of our lives pre-pandemic, stressors can makes us feel anxious or uncertain.

Listed below are some basic tips that might be helpful for you and your family as we continue to navigate our way back to “normal”:

  1. Acknowledge that times are still uncertain and it’s okay! – Make sure that everyone in the family understands that times are still uncertain and it is okay to be anxious and hesitant. As parents, we often want to paint the “perfect” picture. It is okay to share that you are hesitant too. Reassure your children that they are safe and protected.
  2. Begin the discussion. – Start talking with your family about transitioning back into daily activities.
  3. Talk about next steps. – Talk with your family about how you will transition back into previously avoided activities and what it will look like to do so.
  4. Keep it simple! – When speaking about next steps, keep them simple as these first steps can be the most challenging… and overwhelming.
  5. Allow everyone time to get comfortable. – Each person will experience transition differently. Allow time for each member of the family to become comfortable with first next steps (one member might be ready to get back to where he/she was before COVID while another member might want to stay at home and not leave his/her “safe space”).
  6. Create a visual. – For many, but especially for children with disabilities, having a visual can be a helpful tool. For example, showing a picture of someone wearing a mask and then showing a picture of that same person without a mask.
  7. Make it enjoyable (wherever possible). – Try to make those first steps a positive experience. A transition may go more smoothly if the location or activity is somewhere or something the child enjoys.
  8. Keep talking! – Always check in after each outing and ask the questions, “What was it like for you?” and “What do you think you are ready to do next?”
  9. Communication is key. – Sharing thoughts and feelings will be imperative during this time. If you have a child who is nonverbal, try incorporating visuals. You can show faces displaying various emotions and have your child point to one after asking him/her, “How are you today?”
  10. Take it slow! – Transitions will take time. Many schedules, activities and lives were changed for more than a year. Remember to slow down and take one day at a time.

Here are some helpful reading resources for adults and children: