The COVID-19 pandemic has been stressful for children, teens and young adults as they deal with change, uncertainty, anxiety and loss. Aude Henin, PhD, co-director of the Mass General Hospital Child Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Program and director of the Cognitive Behavior Therapy Program, Clinical and Research Program in Pediatric Psychopharmacology, offers tips for families to help build resilience around re-entry from social distancing.

  1. Validate your child’s stress and anxiety. It is important your child feels heard and understood, while recognizing that many children and teens can express stress through behaviors such as avoidance, irritability, social withdrawal and apathy. Accurately labeling these behaviors is the first step to managing them

  1. Encourage your child to cope actively with the stress that they are experiencing. Regular practice of relaxation, mindfulness and meditation techniques can help manage stress. For example, kids who prefer to be active can focus on being mindful while playing sports outside. The key is to practice them actively and purposefully

  1. Practice gradually facing fear over time so your child can develop a sense of confidence and mastery. If your child is anxious about returning to school, come up with a plan to gradually develop a comfort level by driving or walking by the school, having a playdate with a school peer, or–if you are able–going into the school to briefly say hello to teachers or staff. This will make the final step less scary and overwhelming

  1. Take care of yourself and model coping, self-compassion and problem-solving to children. Children model what adults do regardless of what they say, so it is important to teach these critical life skills

  1. Finally, don’t forget the basics. Make sure your child is getting enough sleep, engaging in regular exercise, interacting with friends and loved ones, and using screens in moderation