How many of you are so sick and tired of this pandemic? I know I sure am. I will not say everything about the pandemic has been horrible. In the beginning, I enjoyed how slow life became. I loved all the canceled activities and us being able to be home as a family. We were able to spend a lot of quality time together.
But, the pandemic wasn’t all fun and games for our family. We had our struggles. Online schooling was brutal. Some days it would take my oldest son five or six hours a day to do his school work. There were lots of tears from my daughter, who was in third grade. My preschooler did pretty well, but somedays, it was hard to get her to sit in front of the computer.
My third grader is the one that struggled the most with everything. She did well at first; she got up and did her homework without question. After a couple of weeks, she started to regress. Her birthday is in April, and she had a hard with her birthday because we were stuck home. We couldn’t plan a party or do much of anything. It was a little underwhelming. I tried my best to make it a good day, but it was still hard for her. The day after her birthday, she came into my room at bedtime and started crying. She said she wanted everything to go back to normal. That night she laid by me and cried herself to sleep. That is when I knew we had a big problem that we needed to address.
I knew she was having a hard time; there were signs. She is a social butterfly and thrives on going to school and seeing her friends daily. She made a couple of comments that she missed being with her friends. The biggest thing is that she started sucking her thumb again. She sucked her thumb when she was a baby and hadn’t sucked it for years. It was a little bizarre that she would start sucking her thumb again. She wanted us to lay with her at night until she fell asleep. It became exhausting because some nights, she would take a long time to fall asleep.
I knew that night she came into our room crying and that we needed to take action quickly before it became worse. The next day we contacted her school counselor. We were able to set up online sessions with him every week. He gave us a lot of ideas on how we could help her.
Two strategies helped her. The first strategy that helped was having a worry box. She got a shoebox and had to decorate it any way she wanted. After decorating it, her counselor told her it would be her worry box. She would have to write anything she was worried about on a piece of paper and put it in her worry box. Writing her worries down and putting them into her worry box helped her a great deal. Once she gave her worries to the worry box, she wouldn’t worry about them anymore.
The second strategy we used a lot for her anxiety was “Count 5”. When she had anxiety, she would use Count 5. Here is how it works. First, you count five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Once she did this, it would help her relax. Like I said before, we used this one quite a bit. Count 5 is the one strategy that helped her the most.
Meeting with the counselor helped a great deal. She eventually stopped sucking her thumb, and she was able to fall asleep on her own. We met with the counselor weekly until school got out for the summer. She still struggled through the summer. In our town, we could go back to in-person school in the fall. Once she went back to school full time, she improved significantly. When she was able to be back with her friends, she completely changed. It was amazing to watch her transform once she was able to go back to school.
I am grateful that we had the resource of the school counselor. If we didn’t, I think things could have turned out differently. Even though she has improved dramatically, she is still not the same girl from before the pandemic started. We still have times when her anxiety and fear take over. But now that I know she can suffer from depression and anxiety, I will always keep a close eye on her.