Graduating high school may have seemed so far off when you first entered the building…
By Teresa Winfield
Over the last couple of years, changes have been forced on us in what seems like relentless fashion. Just as one change becomes a part of our everyday reality and the dust settles, a new change is presented in similar fashion and kicks up the ground once again.
As I look out my window today (observing yet another April snowfall) Spring seems far away. And yet I know that just last week, I began to see green shoots in gardens as the first hints of tulips began to push up. Spring is imminent.
Every Spring, nature offers us ideas about what change looks like. It can come as an indicator of hope and renewal after the darkness of winter passes. This year, Spring brings all the familiar indicators of warmer days ahead, but this year, as we anticipate and move toward the end of the pandemic, spring is almost emblematic of the wider changes in progress. While the early days of isolation togetherness are a memory now, change continues as things open up and we are offered new (but old) ways to be normal. Sports fans are able to watch their favorite sports, indoor dining is open to all, and – did you hear? – the characters at Disneyland are able to hug everyone again!
So, what is your new normal going to look like?
If you are a young person with anxiety, this can seem like a blessing and a curse as you ponder what this change back to normal will bring. Some are likely to dive headfirst into the activities and experiences that are familiar sources of joy. They will feel their bodies shifting back to the way they remember them being, and this will be good. Others may take longer to warm up to the idea that faces will now be exposed to the air and entirely seen by others. However you respond to recent changes, it can be seen as normal in the context of the last two rather volatile years. Compassion for self and others is of particular importance right now as everyone responds to these changes in their own ways.
If you are a parent, it may help to know that these challenges are not without historical precedent. Throughout history, young people have been challenged by war, displacement, disruption, and political upheaval, even previous pandemics, and demonstrations of incredible resiliency have come from the worst of times. Overall, young people are safer and more capable than they’ve ever been.
Spring reminds us to be hopeful and look for those places of growth and blossom. If you need some ideas about how to support the young people that you love during this season of change, here are a few to focus on in the coming months:
- Check in with your young people and ask how they’re doing. What are they looking forward to? What are they ready to let go of? Be curious about what they say and be prepared to accept what may be very different perceptions.
- Make time together and opportunities to learn about each other
- Create opportunities to heal as a community. Invite others in and listen/share stories of the last couple of years. What have you learned? How can you support someone else?
- Seek out new spaces while returning to those that felt comforting before such as churches, schools, sports, and other hobbies.
- Encourage balance between work and rest.
- Normalize big feelings in young people and create a space for them to express this.
- Attend the need for regulation in yourself and make self-care a part of life
- Recognize resiliency in your young person and make a point of acknowledging it aloud
Regardless of what is happening for young people right now, their ability to heal and find resilience in this time is boundless. They need parents and important adults to be present and tune in to what is happening with them so that they can find meaning in the messiness.