Coping Skills Help Worried Parents Facing Tough Choices

Parents worry about the decisions they must make for their children during these challenging times, particularly as the school year approaches. Experts say that accepting that you will worry about your decisions is part of healthy emotional coping. Developing coping skills will help you make a realistic plan to keep your children and family as safe as possible. We’ve found some expert advice for parents who are dealing with worry, fear, and uncertainty.

Let go of anxiety about things you cannot control

Let go of the notion that if you worry about something long enough you can determine or control the outcome. That’s a mistake that is easy to fall into when everything around us is uncertain and unpredictable. Thinking about how you are going to meet challenges and make decisions is productive. Going over and over the things you cannot control, like the actions of others, is counterproductive.

Accept uncertainty

Even in times of tranquility, parenting is an exercise in surrender to uncertainty. Remember that trying to pin down certainty in times of chaos can double your distress.

Stop second-guessing and show yourself compassion

You have to make tough calls constantly. Show yourself compassion, instead of second-guessing your hard decisions. Don’t fault yourself for your inability to predict the future or control a situation that is amorphous and uncertain. Pay attention to your inner voice and ease up on judging yourself.

Practice flexible thinking

The ability to recognize and meet changing demands is known as psychological flexibility, and that’s a skill all parents need. You’ve coped before with periods of great uncertainty in your life. You can strengthen your psychological flexibility by remembering those times. How did you deal with change? Apply what you learned then to the decisions you have to make now.

Here’s what to do with bad feelings

You can’t turn off your worry about making the right choices for your child, but you can stop those feelings from miring you in a vicious cycle of negativity. Avoid getting hooked on a bad feeling. Break the habit of needless ruminating with an exercise that can give you psychological distance. Here’s one exercise that encourages you to be an observer of your own mind.

Visualize your thoughts moving on a conveyor belt or floating down a stream. When a distressing thought pops into your head, resist the urge to reassure yourself or try to disprove the idea. Leave the thought alone. Tell yourself, “Hey, there goes another one” and let it go. It’s not worrisome feelings but rather what we do with them that causes more suffering.

Let yourself grieve

Anxiety can mask the grief you feel for your child who is faced with losing more than school. You feel sad they are missing out on the chance to make childhood memories with friends and sports and social events. Recognize that grief can masquerade as anxiety. Letting yourself feel that sadness can bring you some relief from gnawing anxiety.

Take positive action to move forward

Here’s a way to take your mind off uncertainty and your lack of control over circumstances. Think about what else you would do if you were free of worry about the school year. Then put your energy into a meaningful thing you can do right now. Positive action aligned with your values can keep you moving forward and will make you feel better.

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