Leona O'Neill: Moving from lockdown to the new 'normal' will be stressful for kids

Lockdown has been hard on everyone and, now that measures are finally easing, the transition back to 'normality' will also be stressful. As Leona O'Neill writes, now is the time to talk to your children about how they're feeling and to remind them about the important rules that need to be followed as they start to socialise again

Now is the time to reassure your children about re-adjusting to life in the outside world

LOCKDOWN has been difficult for us adults. We have had to manage multiple dimensions of stress about our own health, family safety, careers, business, finances and basically the whole world grinding to a shuddering halt.

For our children, it has also been a totally surreal and frightening experience. They have lived through a period in history that hopefully no other generation of young people will ever have to endure. They have been locked away in their homes, away from their friends and robbed of their routine. Their educational journey has been knocked completely off course and they will no doubt have had to absorb the stress emanating from their parents over this deadly global pandemic.

Now we see an end in sight, many of us – young and old – are as nervous as we are excited to get back to normality. After spending months in lockdown worried about catching coronavirus, keeping other people at arm's length and taking every precaution necessary to keep each other safe, we all hold fears, that life outside our homes is still not 100 per cent risk free. And that's OK. Because we have had it drilled into us for months that the safest place for us during this is at home, away from other people. That outside was dangerous.

Just as it was OK to feel real fear and concern over locking down and all the problems that came with that, it's perfectly normal to feel worried and anxious about transition out of lockdown. And just as we faced great uncertainty over locking down and stopping life as we knew it back in March, we face the same level of uncertainty taking our first tentative steps back out in the world again.

As some of the lockdown measures begin to ease, some children and young people may find it hard to adjust. But there are ways we as parents can help them.

Explain in age-appropriate terms what the new lockdown restriction changes mean and what we can now do. It's good to keep this a positive conversation. Have a chat about how they are feeling and what they think of it and allow them space to express if they feel scared about the new moves or if they are unsure. Talking things through in a calm way can help to reassure them.

Talk about what feels comfortable for them with regard to contact with others. Remember that we have spent three months giving others a very wide berth to prevent the spread of infection and now we are coming back together in new ways. Talk to them about how their friends might react to meeting up again – there might be excited hugs and kisses – and how they will deal with and feel about that.

It will also be good to talk over how they and others might be very standoffish when they meet up. Worry over the virus is still a big concern for lots of people.

A lot of kids, particularly teenagers, want everything to be back to normal and are frustrated by months away from their friends, normal routine and social life. Remind them that rules are there to keep everyone safe and that things will eventually return to normal. In the meantime, it is crucial that we keep looking after one another.

Just as it took time to adjust to the lockdown and our worlds suddenly becoming much smaller, it will take time to feel safe and secure back out in the world again. Remember that it's a gradual process and will leave all of us, not just our children, feeling overwhelmed at times.

The most important thing to remember is to be gentle with ourselves. These last few months have been extremely challenging for us all. Stick by the rules that are in place to keep us all safe and hope that the next few weeks and months will see us return to some manner of very welcome normality.

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