Q: My intermediate-age kid has really freaked out about the fact there was a Covid case at her school and doesn't want to go to school. We've kept her home for a couple of days, but how can we help her get back to school?
A: Perhaps the strongest instinct as parents is to keep our children safe from harm. And for the last two years that has meant keeping them away from a virus that was likely to make us very sick - or worse - with the possibility of ongoing health consequences.
Firstly, I'm going to make the assumption that your family and your daughter are vaccinated. But please, if you're not, use that desire to keep them safe to get them, and yourself vaccinated.
Because when it comes to dealing with anxiety about Covid the most effective thing you can do to avoid the worst outcomes - and therefore reduce the need to worry so intensely - is to vaccinate.
Beyond that, let's start with you, not them. Frequent readers of this column will know that this past 12 months or so I've talked a lot about the need to "recalibrate" our anxiety. And there is some nuance to this.
No one is saying there is no reason to feel scared, worried, or at times frankly freaked out. But we also don't need to be held hostage to our feelings beyond what is reasonable.
It requires us to be flexible, trust the science, trust the expert advice and breathe.
I should say I'm also assuming that your immediate whānau are in good health. Because if you're not then more caution is required and you should follow the advice of your GP.
But otherwise, it is as safe as it can be to go to school. And as parents, the big trick here is to start with regulating ourselves - because children take their lead from us.
So take some time to check in with yourself, and make sure your anxiety isn't also getting into the day-to-day conversations and actions in ways that amplify her worry.
Beyond that, it helps to talk through - and maybe research together - all the efforts and layers of protection the schools are taking. Ask them to list out all the positives of being back at school - and maybe all the things they hated about learning from home during lockdowns.
It can also really help if they feel included in the family decision-making about what risks you as a group are willing to take. A sense of control is important for all of us, but even more so when it feels like everything around us is out of control and we're fearful.
Do we go to shops and grocery stores or do we shop online and get things delivered? What friends and families do you all want to agree are in your bubble?
So If we then decide that being at school is the most important priority, then what else can be avoided, or what other risks are worth taking? It may be in the short term all they want to do is go to school - fine, if that works to get them there.
But most important is to validate the anxiety. Talk about how it's entirely reasonable to feel fearful - the "problem" isn't that she feels anxious - the problem is the volume switch of her anxiety is set too high.
Being fearful is helpful, it makes us cautious and thoughtful about the choices we make.
But anxiety that is too "loud" causes us to avoid. So talk it through, trust the science, trust your school, trust the protection of the vaccine.
And trust your daughter. She's scared for a reason, and like all of us, we need to be brave, recalibrate and take a step into the unknown - together.