Kaarin Anderson Ryan, PhD, BCBA, LBA. 5.15.20
We’ve been isolating ourselves as much as possible for a bit over 2 full months now. At the beginning, there was so much information coming in from sources around the world that it was hard to keep up with everything. Now, it may be a little less of on onslaught, but there is still a lot to process. One of the big questions now is re-entry. How do we gradually move back to life as we knew at? Can we do this in the near future?
For many people, there is an overarching sense of anxiety now. What is going to happen in the world? What is going to happen with the economy? What about the food chain? What if we go back out and people start getting the virus in large numbers? What if my parents or kids get sick? What if I get sick? The questions still overwhelm the answers in many respects. And if you are a parent with kids at home, it can be challenging to answer questions about what’s next. If you have kids at home on the autism spectrum, your challenge is further increased because there is little sense of long-term predictability, which can be a problem.
Reflecting back on these past few weeks and the ever-changing information along with fears and worries that come with the unknown, something that has been helpful is to focus on what I do know, and what I can control. What is that right now?
- My daily routine.
- My weekly list of tasks.
- My level of (remote) social engagement.
- My sanity activities (getting outside, doing yoga or meditation, reading, watching a good movie).
- Who I spend time with in-person and how to do that safely.
- How much I go out and how I prepare for that.
- How much I look at the media.
What can I not control?
- Medical progress with the virus.
- Changing information about the virus.
- The behavior of other people when it comes to safety and distancing.
- The decisions of leaders in government at every level.
- The decisions of businesses starting to re-open with different rules everywhere.
- The media (but remember, you can control what you read).
It takes some thought to put together your list of what you can and can’t control right now. If you have kids at home (with or without special needs) who are feeling tired of being home or showing signs of anxiety about the situation, this is a good time to teach them about what we have the power to control. This is much easier if you start with the smallest picture, which is today. What can we do today to make it the best day possible? How much structure do we want today? For some kids, it will be helpful to have a good plan every day, while others will manage well with looser structures and routines. One of the most important things will be to focus on what can and should be done today and this week, instead of spending too much time thinking about what may or may not happen in 2 weeks, 2 months, or even a year. This is especially true right now, because we just don’t know how things will look in our town, our state, our country or even our world. Is it possible that schools in your area won’t start again in September? Yes, it is possible. But mostly we don’t know. Letting yourself or your kids spend a lot of time and energy worrying about this will only prevent happiness and productivity right now.
Take another look at the list I made of what I can control right now. Do any of those concepts apply to you? Do any of those translate to action for your kids at home? How can you wrap your arms around the things that are in your control to help yourself and your family move forward in the midst of endless information but not a lot of concrete answers? Focus on here. Focus on now. Don’t worry to much about re-inventing yourself or your family, just do the best you can with what you know and what you have in front of you, today.
So ask yourself, and ask your kids, what can we control right now? What can we do with the things that are in our control to make the absolute best of each day? What can we do to try not to put a lot of our energy into predicting or worrying about the future? Make lists, make visuals, and celebrate the things that go well every day.