If I had to pick one word to encompass what so many of us are feeling at this moment – I would choose the word “uncertainty.” Plans for school – be it virtual, home, or face to face -seem to change by the millisecond. Guidelines for safety during the pandemic are constantly evolving.  Add employment into the mix with the social, economic, and political landscape for our country and its no wonder our world feels turned upside down.Uncertainty graphic

With uncertainty, feelings of worry and anxiety are often present – butterflies in the belly, trouble focusing, racing thoughts. When our bodies sense these uncomfortable feelings, our mind is led to believe a potential threat to our mental or physical health is present. We are biologically programmed for survival by way of fight, flight, or freeze. Our gut reaction to perceived threat is to either aggressively confront it, flee from it, or become immobilized with indecision. We often react instinctively versus thinking logically through the pros and cons of possible options.

So, what does this look like? Well, we may see our children regress behaviorally. Young, previously self-sufficient children becoming clingy and irritable.  Sociable, outgoing elementary schoolers may start acting bossy in their misguided attempt to have control. Teens may shutdown and withdraw when they feel that the return to school is not meeting their social needs. And lastly, we may see this in ourselves – feeling unable to make simple decisions, like what to have for dinner, or snapping at our partners when we would usually be able to let something go.

The reality is we cannot control many aspects of what is happening in the world. For those of us who are “planners and doers”, this reality can be extra frustrating and anxiety provoking. So how do we strike a balance between adjusting to the uncertainty of our “new normal” and taking back control over our reactions? The key is to figure out what we can control and what we can let go of.  And what’s one thing that is completely within our control? Our internal dialogue.

Let’s start with using a growth mindset. If I think in absolutes, it increases the intensity of my feelings. For example, if I think “I will never be able to hang out with my friends again”, I will likely feel frustrated, disappointed or annoyed. However, if I approach the problem with a growth mindset, I can be more flexible with my thinking and I can look at the situation as being “in process”.

I am not able to hang out with my friends…yet.

I do not feel comfortable wearing a mask…yet.

I am not accustomed to distance learning…yet.

If still have these feelings – they are real, but they may not feel so big or overwhelming.

Mentally reframing a situation is being “in process” vs. pre-determined allows us to accept a certain level of uncertainty instead of actively fighting against it.  We can plan and know that circumstances can change, and it will be alright. We can hope that the situation goes a certain way versus expectingit to follow a specific path. After all, we all are works in progress. Being flexible in our thinking allows us to learn from making mistakes and helps us build resilience and come back stronger.

The Childhood Collective shared the following growth mindset mantras for parents starting the new school year. These are some concrete ways to weave flexible thinking into our day-to-day lives.

Showing grace towards ourselves about knowing all the answers and making the “right “decisions can go a long way.  If there is one thing for certain it’s that we are all making the best decisions that we can for our families at this time. My plan may look different from your plan – and that’s ok.

Image Credit: httpss://www.thechildhoodcollective.com/

In a world of uncertainty, using a growth mindset can drastically improve our outlook.  It’s a tool worth teaching to our children because it helps build grit, resilience and perseverance. All things that that can will be helpful to us long after life becomes more predictable again.

For resources on teaching growth mindset to your child or teen, check out some of my favorite books below:

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

The Girl who never made Mistakes by Mark Pett and Jerry Rubenstein

Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg

For relevant journaling prompts and daily activities to practice growth mindset, check out www.biglifejournal.com