When it’s virtual or in person, if you are feeling uncertain, worried, and confused about your child’s return to school this year, you’re not alone. Tough decisions will have to be made. I have talked with both teachers and parents and, one thing is for sure, no one is sure what the right thing is for everyone. That means regardless of what parents decide to do, they face feeling discomfort and anxiety about their decision.
It’s going to be a year of ups and downs. How we face and accept the obstacles will determine our mental health as well as our child’s. Parents are the biggest influencers with how their children react; if you complain and voice anger, hostility, and resentment, that is how your child will act during the school year. Encouraging yourself and your child to adopt a growth mindset about the situation will help both of you stay open and confident when coping with change. My suggestions to help you cope with anxiety about the upcoming school year can help you feel more comfortable with your decisions and be an anchor for your child.
Be gentle with yourself and others. You are not perfect, and no one else is either. Everyone feels stressed, and there are too many decisions to make. Model healthy coping with your children by staying present with your thinking, and don’t get ahead of yourself. Let’s not worry about what graduation will look like on the first day of school.
Accept uncertainty. There are no guarantees this year, so keep yourself open and flexible for change. To help your child feel more secure, keep routines and family time stable at home.
Build a supportive, calming network. Parenting is a lesson in surrendering. You want to keep your children safe, but there are no guarantees. The stress can be overwhelming and having a network of close friends who share what you’re going through is a lifeline. Parents should confide their concerns and stressors with their friends when their children are not there. Children absorb the feelings of their parents; keep adult feelings among adults.
Practice self-care. Research supports that the most important thing to your child is that you are rested and mentally healthy. Your child’s ability to cope and deal with change depends on your ability to manage anxiety. Do the things that bring you peace. Keep your exercise program, coffee meetups, and gardening habits. Taking time for yourself is not a luxury but a necessity, especially this year.
Make daily check-ins with your child. Have a break and talk to your child whether it’s during an evening walk, after homework, over dessert after dinner. Instead of asking how their day went, ask them how they feel about their day. What parts stood out to them as being helpful? What area did they struggle with? What worries them or makes them feel uneasy? Children talk honestly when they feel they can trust their parents and have a safe space for how they feel.
This school year will require flexibility, compassion, and empathy. There is no single “right way” to do school this year. Set your mind for realistic expectations and expect both good and bad days. Teach your children to learn from the bad days and celebrate the good days!