Engage the child and caregiver in a discussion about how this school year might feel different, uncertain, or unknown. Help the child and caregiver name things that might feel different, the same, or unknown about this year.
After naming things that are out of the family or child’s control for this school year, assist the family in identifying things that the child CAN control or have a say in. Some examples/ideas:
For distance learning/homeschooling: Make a schedule on poster-board to hang up in the child’s workspace, so they know what to expect for their daily routine. Involve them in the making of this schedule as much as possible (after an hour of school, do they want to take a break to eat a snack, or to play outside?)
Help the child make their home workspace their own. Though there are lots of Pinterest-perfect workspaces online, reassure families that even simple choices can help the child feel more grounded. Do they want to work at a desk in their room, or the kitchen table? Can they help pick out school supplies with a favorite character on them? Do they want to pick out a first day of school outfit, or a comfy blanket to cuddle up with while joining their Zoom classes?
For in-person schooling: Again, help the child know what they CAN control in a school year that might feel very different. Can they pick out their favorite mask design to wear? A first day of school outfit? Choose their lunch or help shop for lunchbox snacks for their first week?
Encourage caregivers to be flexible wherever possible to help their child feel ownership and control over a school year that might feel unfamiliar or overwhelming in other ways.
Sample Progress Note: The focus of this session was… The therapist engaged the child and caregiver in processing around the upcoming school year and discussed feelings of uncertainty or ambiguity that the family was experiencing. The therapist provided parenting strategies around giving the child choice and control where possible, and the group identified several ways for the child to feel more ownership and control, thereby lessening feelings of anxiety or stress for the family unit. The family identified the following strategies (list a few).
Couples strategy of the week:
Developing Communication Strategies About Sex (Gottman Institute, 2016): Many couples feel like sex is an ambiguous topic, whether that’s wondering if each partner is satisfied or how to communicate about aspects of the sexual relationship. To reduce ambiguity around expectations about sex, it can be helpful for couples to 1) practice talking about sex, and 2) find ways to talk about sex that feel more comfortable. Help the couple find comfortable ways to initiate sex, say no to sex, and talk about the logistics of sex (e.g., what feels good, what to try).
Sample Progress Note: The focus of this session was… The therapist helped the couple enhance their communication skills by exploring ways they can communicate about sexual intimacy. The couple (engaged/did not engage) in the discussion, and they reported that finding new ways to communicate about sexual intimacy was (helpful/awkward/intimidating/etc.).
Adult strategy of the week:
The below steps can be used when an adult is struggling with making a decision, such as what to do with their kids this next school year.
Psychoeducation: What is Ambiguity? Wikipedia says: “Ambiguity is a type of meaning in which a phrase, statement or resolution is not explicitly defined, making several interpretations plausible. A common aspect of ambiguity is uncertainty.”
Normalize: Well, this sounds a lot like life right now, right?! Remind your client: You’re not alone but that doesn’t mean your experience isn’t valid and unique to you.
Explore Options: Help the client explore their options or find options without judgment, and options that are filled with creativity and curiosity. This could look like a pros and cons list that is weighted based on their values and needs.
Make a Decision: There are so many uncertainties right now, so help your client take a deep breath of confidence knowing they are making the best decision they can given so many uncertainties. Their decision might be different than their best friend or neighbor’s decision and that’s okay.
Be Flexible: Help your client prepare for things to change and/or develop a back up plan.
Sample Progress Note: The focus of this session was… The therapist helped the client tolerate ambiguity and confusion regarding decision-making. The therapist provided psychoeducation and normalized ambiguity, as well as assisted the Ct in exploring their options and making a decision. The Ct reported that this process was (helpful/relevant/not helpful).
Sample progress note: The focus of this session was… The therapist led a meditation activity (i.e., Meditation During Uncertain Times). Ct. (engaged/did not engage in the activity), and they reported that the activity was (helpful/difficult/not helpful).
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