Back to School with COVID-19
By Renee M. Orr, LMSW
Kids and parents alike are struggling with back to school season this fall. Back to school this year, in the time of a global pandemic, looks drastically different than ever before. Some districts offer choices, some are making the choices for families. In person schooling, hybrid attendance school, remote learning, homeschool. Working parents, single parents, working from home parents. Special education, IEPs, needed accommodations. There is just so much to consider, and ALL families seem to be struggling with these decisions.
All this uncertainty leads to pressure and stress within the child and in the home atmosphere. Children are missing their friends, they are wearing masks all day in school, they are assigned play pods at recess so as to not cross contaminate toys, they are learning via computer, they are attending class with half students present, they cannot remember which days they attend in person and which days they log into virtual class. Parents cannot plan for daycare needs, their own work schedules, other children in the family, the lists of concerns go on and on. Parents are questioning their choices in a time when nobody knows for certain what is best, or how this virus will pan out and impact our communities.
The best we can do to lessen our stress level, is make a choice and embrace that decision. Help your children reduce stress by modeling your own calm. Take a deep breath and think for a moment before addressing school topics. Be confident in your words and tone when talking to kids about how school will work for them. Whichever model you select for your family, prepare your child for maximum success. Quiet workspace at home, cute and fun masks if attending school, or wall calendar to visually see the daily plan. Teach your child a couple calming strategies. Cookie style deep breathing is fun and easy for littler kids. Teach them to imagine cookies are baking in an oven and they can smell the delicious scent by taking a deep breath in their nose. Then they must remember fresh cookies are hot, so blow them gently through their mouth to cool the cookie. For older kids and teens, there are many great apps that can be added to devices that will offer reminders to take deep breathes and calm both their brain and body during this new way of attending school.
The best we can do to lessen our stress level, is make a choice and embrace that decision.
To lessen your own stress as a parent, accept that you made the best decision for YOUR family. Let go of what Karen next door is doing and allow yourself to settle your family into a sense of peace and acceptance around your choice. Work within the schooling system you have selected and make your family plan. Remind yourself that nothing will be 100% perfect, there will be bumps. Have grace; with yourself, your child, your teacher partners. Organize your child and you for success in learning in this format. Find ways to calm yourself and relax. Practice self-care. Download an app that reminds you to release the tension in your shoulders or stop grinding your teeth each hour throughout the day. Find supports. Look within the plan you choose for other families working similarly. Develop a cohort, support each other, and praise each other often for all the hard work you are doing. Trust yourself. You are doing the absolute best you can for your family. Remind yourself that you are not in this alone. The entire world is facing this same stress, we are all in it together and we will hold each other up during this difficult time.
By Renee M. Orr, LMSW
About the Author
Renee M. Orr, LMSW
Renee is a full time counselor with HRA Psychological Services specializing in teen and child counseling. Since school closed last March, Renee has noticed a substantial increase in the stress and anxiety among the kids she serves. If you think Renee could help your child and family, you can contact her by clicking here.