Managing Uncertainty

Each week we publish an article in the Limerick Leader, Weekly Observer and Vale Star newspapers that focuses on different aspect of Positive Parenting. Over the coming weeks we will be running a series that focuses on your child’s transition back to school. Articles throughout the series will further explore some of the topics discussed below.

We are very living in very strange times. Indeed, we are normally so used to the certainty of going back to school in September. In previous years the Summer has been a challenging but contained event as we strived to keep our children occupied at home. This year we have no guarantees – there are plans for reopening but there seems to more unknown than knowns. Children may feel scared and worried about many things such as school work done and not done, or after so long keeping a safe distance they may worry if the virus has gone away? Will they catch it in school? Who will be the teacher? Will my class be split up? Children may have many more questions with answers that we don’t have yet. As a parent you may have many of these questions and added worries about returning to work, managing colds and flus in the coming months and managing schoolwork if your child is unable to attend school.

As a parent you will want to protect your children and have the answers you have always had. You will want to help with anxiety and reassure. You may also be worried and want to push away the questions. The first part and challenge is to think about what you do know and understanding what you don’t know. Think about where there is certainty and where there is not. Take your own emotional temperature, how do you feel about the questions being asked? Try to feel ok about answering some questions with certainty and some questions with “we don’t know the answer to that yet.” Remind your child that you will be there to help them no matter what happens next. Help them to remember that when school closed we didn’t have any answers and remind them of what you have managed so far. Be honest about the challenges you have faced as a family during this time.

Work on building your communication and be tolerant of children’s fears. It is tempting as a parent to want to make them better. Try hearing them out, turning them over together and finding shared solutions. Talk together about the hopes and fears and all that you have already managed in the months of not being in school with friends and seeing loved ones. Think about all that you have survived. Some uncertainty when you do it together is not so bad.
Allow conversations with your child to include hopes and possibilities. Ask them what they are hoping for in September and make space to enjoy this. Let yourself focus on things that have been positive over these months.

Routines are the bedrock of security, when routines remain in place children build a sense of security. When the routines change to prepare for school, children begin to understand that the summer is coming to an end and they can expect a change. This is particularly important for younger children who may chat less about what is going on. Knowing what is going to happen on a daily basis reduces anxiety through predictability.

Above all as a parent the job is to be inspiring. We need to give the message that we can do this and I will be with you no matter what happens next. Celebrate what you have accomplished so far and encourage and support them to get ready for the next phase.

Top Tips for Managing Uncertainty
1. Manage your own anxieties and worries by talking to someone supportive.
2. Separate what you know from what you guess or think
3. Name what you know, i.e “you will be back in school we just don’t know when”
4. Explore with your child what they think or hope will happen, maybe they have ideas, thoughts or worries.
5. Answer what you know with certainty.
6. Answer what you don’t know with, “ I will let you know when I do” Acknowledge how strange it is to be a Mum or Dad without answers.
7. Reassure saying “when we know I will help you to get used to it”
8. Do get your child into good routines for the school year before September comes, this will provide security and safety.

This article was written by the Barnardos Homemaker Family Support Service, a member of Parenting Limerick. For more information and resources for parents on this topic, as well as local parenting and family support services, go to