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There is nothing typical about the upcoming school season. Parents throughout the country are facing difficult choices about the education, emotional well-being, and overall health of their children.
If you are struggling to manage the stress and fear about making these important decisions, you are not alone. Caring for your own mental health during this stressful time is an essential part of helping your children navigate the changes and face the unknown.
Remember that This is New Territory for Everyone
The beginning of any school year can be a stressful time if you are a parent or caregiver of school aged children. You have to prepare for the upcoming school year by purchasing supplies, settling back into a night and morning routine, and by getting all of the relevant information to and from the school.
Now, with all of the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, you also have to decide if your children will learn remotely, in-person, or a hybrid of the two. The stress of deciding what is best for your children and your family can cause you to lose perspective on the fact that everyone is navigating this difficult season for the very first time. This is new territory for everyone!
The teachers and administration of the school your children attend have never faced educating students during a global pandemic. The parents of other children in your district are struggling to decide which learning option is best for their children as well. Families all around you are trying to balance the need to provide financially with the desire to protect the health of loved ones.
Taking the time to remember that this is new territory for everyone can help you put the stress of making these big decisions into perspective. Everyone around you is facing important decisions with insufficient information. You are not alone in your struggles to navigate this uncharted territory.
Develop a Long-Term Perspective
The experts, politicians, and likely your circle of loved ones seem to all have differing views on the various elements of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is little about the response to this pandemic that everyone can agree upon. If there is one thing that everyone can agree on, however, it is the fact that things will not stay like this forever. The world will be permanently impacted by COVID-19, but there will be a time when schools are able to establish a new normal. Developing a long-term perspective about this time of life can help you manage your stress levels as you navigate the new school season.
Expect Transition and Uncertainty
There is not a single plan that outlines exactly how and when we will move past the COVID-19 pandemic. Plans for going back to school vary from state to state and district to district. The reality is that no one knows for sure how this entire situation will play out. Schools may remain open for the entire year or be forced to shut down in response to a spike in positive cases. In order to navigate this upcoming school year with as little stress as possible you need to expect transition and uncertainty. Being prepared for change can help you take those change in stride instead of disrupting your mental and emotional well-being.
An important part of navigating the new school season is managing the expectations of your children. In-person instruction will likely look different this upcoming school year. Virtual and hybrid instruction will continue to evolve as teachers, administrators, and parents learn about what does and does not work. The expectations that your children have going in to this new school year can have a big impact on their stress levels and emotional well-being.
Help your children manage their expectations by talking about the reality of in-person and virtual instruction during the pandemic. You will not have all the answers, but opening up the conversation is an important first step in helping ease the transition back to school or virtual learning for your children.
Don't Forget About Yourself
Your kids have been through a lot the past few months. They were pulled out of in-person school, separated from their friends and teachers, and had to adapt to learning from home without warning. The emotional and psychological impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children is yet to be fully understood. It is true that school aged children have experienced hardship because of this pandemic – but so have you. As a parent, it is easy to get so wrapped up in the needs of your children during a crisis that you neglect your own emotional and mental needs. Don’t forget about yourself!
In order to deal with the stress and uncertainties that are still to come due to COVID-19, you need to spend some time on self-care. Options for self-care include getting regular exercise, maintaining a high-quality diet, spending time outside, connecting with loved ones, and working with a mental health professional. There are socially distanced options for each of these self-care techniques including at-home workouts, video calls with loved ones, and video counseling sessions with a SonderMind therapist.
The psychological and emotional impact of social distancing, stay-at-home orders, and disruption to normal life can be significant for both parents and children. There are many options for working through your negative emotions, unmet expectations, and stress. Keep close tabs on the mental well-being of yourself and your children. Even with social distancing in place, it is possible to get help from a mental health professional if needed.