Ways to Help Your Children and Family Manage the Uncertainties

By Anne Peters, LMFT

Happy September, everyone! We have officially made it through summer and we are all getting back into our school and work routine. Although this is a time of year when we fall into normal routines and a lot of predictability, this year feels a little bit different due to COVID-19. How can we manage the uncertainties for ourselves and our families?

First, let’s take a look at the definition of the word “uncertain.” It can be defined as “not known beyond doubt, not having certain knowledge, and not clearly defined.” All of those aspects feel pretty similar to what we are experiencing right now, right? As humans, we are motivated to reduce the feeling of uncertainty because it feels so uncomfortable for us. Scientific studies have shown that when we know something negative is coming, we experience less agitation and more of a sense of calm than when we are told there’s a 50% chance that same negative thing might happen. That uncertainty is difficult for us to manage. It’s an unnatural state of being for us and scientifically, it signals to the brain that things are not quite right. The brain then tries to fill in the blanks to resolve the uncertainty, which can lead to anxiety.

So, what do we do? It’s so important for us to teach our children how to separate the things we can control from the things that we cannot control, and to practice that ourselves. When we focus on the aspects of the situation that we can control, we switch from ineffective worrying to active problem solving. Take a look at this example from Clearview Social of a way to draw out and visualize the separation between the things you can and cannot control.

Beyond recognizing what you can and cannot control, setting a routine and structure is critical. It provides us with a sense of safety and security. I encourage you to include one calming moment in each day’s routine, whether it’s a walk around the block, watching nature, etc.

Finally, it’s important to recognize your own feelings and encourage your family to recognize theirs as well. This technique is named, according to Dr. Daniel Siegel of the UCLA School of Medicine, “Name It to Tame It.” When we are able to recognize our own feelings and put a name to them, it helps us make sense of the mixed-up thoughts in our head and put them in an order. The feelings will hopefully not feel as big and scary when we start to really understand what they are and why we feel that way.

If you notice the uncertainty of the situation is weighing on you or your family to the point it is impacting your day-to-day life, please reach out to us. We have therapists here at LSI ready to serve you via telehealth therapy. Remember, you are not alone. We are all in this together.

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