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Families will need to cope with practical, psychological challenges of gradual reopening: expert

Last Updated May 6, 2020 at 7:07 am PDT

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Psychologist says families will have a lot to cope with during a slow return to normal

Teens could have an especially tough time with a gradual return to normal, increase in opportunities to socialize

People will likely face practical and psychological challenges with a gradual return to 'normalcy'

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – While we wait for B.C.’s pandemic plans for a gradual re-opening of the economy, a psychologist suggests families will have a lot to cope with during a slow return to normal.

“It will be gradual, and one aspect of society can’t try to return to normal without bringing the other aspects along with it,” says Catherine Costigan, a professor of psychology at the University of Victoria.

“For some, it will be the practical challenges of jumping back to work if you don’t have childcare and other things in place. For others, it might be more of a psychological challenge if being at home has felt safe,” she tells NEWS 1130.

“Interacting with others could come with a sense of increased vulnerability, of being less sure of how to be confident that you can keep yourself and your family safe.”

For other people, Costigan says even a gradual reopening will be a welcome change from social isolation during the pandemic.

“People who thrive off interactions with others will probably welcome the opportunity to have a little bit more of a sense of normalcy. And, of course, people who are under severe financial stress and uncertainty will welcome the opportunity to make a living again.”

Costigan warns that teens could have an especially tough time with a gradual return to normal and an increase in opportunities to socialize.

“They will have to balance the desire for social interaction and the need to take it slowly and maintain safety as much as possible. I think rather than approaching teenagers in an enforcement and obedience way of trying to constrain adolescence, you can really engage them in thinking about what is safe and what might be going too far.”

The key, she says, is helping them make their own decisions that will be consistent with what public health officers are recommending.

B.C. is among the last of the provinces to table a plan to start reopening shuttered portions of the economy.

Details are set to be released on Wednesday, but provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says physical distancing will remain a part of life through the coming summer.