To Worry or Not to Worry, That is the Question

By Dr. Marshall Bruner, Clinical Director, Center Point Counseling

“How much is too much?”
“When do I say yes?”
“When do I say no?”
“Is it okay to stop worrying so much?”
“Am I worrying too little?”
“Is it safe to do that?”

These and other questions are very common right now for parents of school age children and adolescents. I know, I’ve got two of my own. During the early days of the pandemic it was easy to say to my girls, “Well, I’m sorry but everything is shut down so we really can’t go anywhere or do much of anything…why not Facetime one of your friends?”

Now that things are starting to open up, school is back in session, and both kids are attending in-person, and life feels a little like what we used to think of as “normal”, my wife and I are weighing out how to respond to requests for participation in this or that activity.

We decided around month three of the pandemic that there would come a time when they would need to be with their friends. That time has come. The decision-making tree, at least for us, is “What level of risk will this activity bring?” That question is followed quickly by: “And what will be the cost, in terms of mental health, of saying no?” More often than not, we say “yes” to participating in after-school activities, to going to a friends’ birthday party and to sporting events.

Luckily, both of our girls are self-monitors and opt out of activities where they know people will not be following social distancing guidelines or wearing masks. But even when they participate in lower risk activities, there is still a cost. For our family, this means they can’t spend time with their grandparents like they did during the early days of the pandemic when we adopted an extended “shelter-in-place” arrangement between our house and the homes of our parents. We know students who have contracted COVID-19, and it is possible that one or both girls will be exposed. While it is likely that we would survive if one or all of us came down with the virus, the same may not be true for others, and none of us are willing to take a risk with someone else’s safety, particularly those who are nearest and dearest to us.

The bottom line? It is good to be a little anxious about COVID-19. It is good to think through the impact of our actions, on us and on others. It is not good to be overly anxious about the virus. As Shakespeare said, “O, that way madness lies” (King Lear). If you’re wondering whether it is advisable to engage in a particular activity, seek input. Check in with the pediatrician’s office, read the latest guidance on safety precautions and talk to your friends about how they are making similar decisions. Weigh out the pros and cons and make the best most informed decision you can…then go with it.