PSP Decision-Making During COVID, for Parents of Babies & Toddlers

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Park Slope Parents recently hosted a webinar with Samuel Jeannite, PsyD, and Mandi White-Ajmani, PhD, of Small Brooklyn Psychology. Dr. Sam and Dr. Mandi shared some insight on acknowledging the realities of Covid-19, approaching the decision-making process, and reaching a conclusion that works for your family.

 

Read on for their wisdom—and to get access to more webinars like these, join Park Slope Parents HERE!

 

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First of all, we must acknowledge that…

  • Covid-19 sucks!

  • Ambiguity, uncertainty, and confusion have resulted in feelings of anxiety and frustration.

  • It is okay to be anxious. You are not the only one, and it’s not necessarily bad to be anxious. Anxiety can be as informative as it is detrimental—kind of like the pain that comes from stubbing your toe, which lets you know that something is wrong. It’s when the anxiety reaches disruptively high levels that you need to make a change.

 

To that last point, let’s assess your anxiety. The GAD-7 Scale is a simple way to measure your stress levels.

 

 

Scores of 5, 10, and 15 are taken as the cut-off points for mild, moderate and severe anxiety, respectively. When used as a screening tool, further evaluation is recommended when the score is 10 or greater. PSP has reviews of local mental health services, and you can also reach out to Small Brooklyn Psychology for referrals.

 

Decision-Making. Dr. Sam offered the following framework for thinking through choices around sending kids back to daycare/preschool, visiting relatives, and anything else Covid-related.

 

Step 1: Identify the decision.

Step 2: Gather relevant information. Often we make decisions based on how we feel, but it’s also key to get the facts. Talk to your relatives, your friends, your school, and anyone else who may be involved in the decision.

Step 3: Identify the alternatives. If you’re deciding about school, for instance, the alternatives might include taking time off of work or hiring childcare.

Step 4: Weigh the evidence. Take your time. Sleep on it.

Step 5: Choose among the choices you’ve identified.

Step 6: Take action.

Step 7: Review your decision and its consequences.

 

Anxiety impairs your thinking ability and affects decisions. If you’re heavily anxious, you might not be in the right headspace to give your options enough thought.

  • You might start overthinking and running through scenarios in your head. Remind yourself that it’s not possible to consider every possibility under the sun.

  • You might freeze up and become too scared to voice your concerns to those around you. It’s okay to be honest with people about where you’re at. Let them know that you’re stressed about the decision and need advice.

  • Find ways to get yourself to a space where you can be calm enough to make a decision, even if that means taking some time to cool down and practice self-care before returning to the choice.

 

Can Control vs. Cannot Control. Pros and cons are an important decision-making tool, but don’t overlook what you Can vs. Cannot Control as a way to break things down and discover the realities of the situation.

 

THINGS YOU CAN CONTROL

  • Who watches over your child

  • The people you want around your child

  • How you deal with the anxiety you are feeling

  • Who you go to for help (your network)

  • How you protect yourself (washing hands, wearing a mask, etc.)

 

THINGS YOU CANNOT CONTROL

  • Covid-19. All you can do is control your own response and the precautions you take.

  • The unpredictability of organizations during this time (school openings, etc.)

  • Other peoples’ actions

  • The news

 

 

Tips for making decisions in collaboration with your family

  • Have an open conversation about your concerns, and do so proactively.

  • Be forthright and make your boundaries clear. Come from a place of compassion, but be firm.

  • Build solutions with family members. Often we don’t do things in a collaborative manner, instead trying to make solutions “for” or “to.” Aim for “with” instead: Voice your needs, have a conversation, and come to a compromise.

  • Know their communication styles and decision-making styles. Do they make choices right away? Do they need to marinate and process? Do they get anxious about certain things? Take all that into account when approaching them.

  • Be aware of external stressors that may be affecting your attitude or behavior. Take a step back and look at where you are and how you got there. Be honest with them about what factors are having an impact on you.

  • Breathe!

 

Tips for making decisions about daycare and school

  • Have an open conversation about your concerns with teachers and administration.

  • Read the safety plans that the daycare or school has in regards to Covid. Ask questions and gather information.

  • Breathe again! If you’re holding a lot of anxiety, that affects your family too. Get yourself to a calm state, and that will have a positive effect on the people around you.

 

Questions to ask your daycare or school

  • How strict are the guidelines?

  • How will they enforce the guidelines?

  • Will staff wear masks?

  • How many people are in a classroom?

  • How will they maintain distancing or limit activities?

  • How will staff respond if someone tests positive?

  • Do you need childcare so you can work?

  • How will this benefit your children?

  • ...and then breathe, one more time. Ultimately, you can gather as much information as you want, but if you’re not comfortable with the situation and you’re feeling a lot of anxiety, you still have the option not to go through with it.

 

Self-care. Your family needs you, so it is important to try to care for your physical and mental health. Remember…

  • You are not perfect, and there is no perfect decision. Do what is best for you and take precautions.

  • Caring for a young child has its joys and its struggles. Make time for yourself. For many, spending more time with kids has been one of the perks of working from home, but it’s crucial to still step away and take time for yourself.

  • Limit access to news.

  • Maintain structure. During the pandemic, all the days seem to bleed together, so finding ways to differentiate can help. Remember to insert fun things in your schedule, like a date night, socially distanced meet-ups, or Zoom calls with your friends.

  • Shift your perspective. Negative thoughts can start to repeat over and over in your brain. It’s important to implement positive thoughts as a counter. Find little happy things within the day, even if it’s just eating a really delicious cookie, having a great workout, or sharing a sweet moment with your partner. Therapy and meditation are also powerful tools to combat negative and unhelpful thoughts.

  • Find a problem that you know you can solve right now. Prioritize, check things off your list, and celebrate small victories.

  • Always seek out more help when you need it. You’re not alone. You’re not a bad parent. We will get through this.

 

Further reading and resources:

 

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