Feeling anxious about canceled plans? Make a back-up

Skills & Habits


Feeling anxious about canceled plans? Make a back-up

You’ve spent countless hours creating an Excel spreadsheet of options for the summer – camps, enrichment programs, family visits – but it’s not looking like you’ll be doing any of these. You’re not alone. At least 56 million people have had to change their plans due to COVID-19. Looks like a lot of us will be making a back-up plan.

Even if we were not in the midst of a pandemic, there’s almost always a possibility that original plans get canceled or changed. Multiple path planning lowers anxiety for adults and can even build confidence in kids. When you have a back-up plan it’s easier to pick yourself up and move on with life. This builds resilience; and if there’s one thing we need right now, it’s resilience.

Resilience equals optimism

Resilience, one of the 16 Habits of Success, is the foundation of being prepared for school and life. Psychologists define resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant sources of stress. Fostering the habit of resilience results in profound personal growth. It helps us stay optimistic despite unexpected stresses. Resilience also helps us overcome setbacks and learn from failures. It leads to greater happiness, more success, and better health.

Develop your back-up plan gives you a new purpose 

One of the best ways to build and model resilience is to be proactive, try to solve a problem and take initiative, all of which give you motivation to keep moving forward. So, even though your plans have been canceled, don’t dwell on what could have been. Here’s an opportunity to plant a growth mindset coming up with an alternate. 
  • Focus on your ultimate goal. When you drew up your first plans, what was your hope for your time together? How can you still achieve that goal?
  • Consider the non-negotiables. What are those things that cannot be changed? Your work schedule? The family budget? Obligations to other family members? How do these work into your alternate plan? Is there any room for compromise?
  • Identify your options. This may require a revisit as advisories change and are updated, so factor in some flexibility and the possibility that whatever you do may be virtual.
  • Recognize what you can’t do. There is a lot that’s out of our control right now, so be nimble and don’t over-promise. You may want to travel, but that may not be possible yet, so in addition to making immediate plans, talk about what you may be able to do in the future.
  • Involve your kids in the conversation. For families with very young kids, do the planning yourself, but let the kids know why you made the choices you did. Are there habits and skills you hope to see them develop or interests they already have you want to help them pursue? Exploring an interest your kid already has can ignite a passion that’s an important first step in discovering their sense of purpose and identity.

Five steps to build the habit of resilience

Research shows that just motivation and willpower are not enough to form a habit. Habits are built over time through repetition. Try these 5 steps to build the habit of resilience:
  1. Focus on building the habit of resilience. Working on one habit at a time will prevent you from depleting your resources of willpower and increase the odds of success.
  2. Make a daily commitment. Instill the habit into your life so that it becomes routine by committing to it daily.
  3. Take small steps to turn a habit into automatic behavior. This micro-commitment should be easy to maintain so that you stay consistent.
  4. Create accountability. This is an opportunity to model habit building for your kid.
  5. Make it a part of your core identity. Build a lasting habit by making it a reflection of who you are on the inside.
Habits don’t often stand alone, they reinforce each other, so while we are building resilience, we are also nurturing in our kids habits like gratitude, empathy, self-awareness, and reflection. Once the habit starts to take root, acknowledge it, and reward it immediately. The body releases dopamine for about a minute after being rewarded that helps us feel good and connects the desired behavior to the reward in memory. It takes two to three months of consistently doing something for it to become a habit. Remind your kid to be patient and not give up.