Both students and parents are feeling overwhelmed when preparing to return to school each fall. This year, the perils of COVID-19 are exacerbating this back to school stress for families across the country.
How can you feel more prepared despite all the unknown variables? What should you be doing- or not be doing? How can you support your children if they’re feeling restless or anxious themselves?
How Are Most People Coping?
With COVID-19 cases surging across the country, there’s still a lot we don’t know. Many school districts remain undecided about how they will resume classes in the next few weeks. Of course, living with this uncertainty can be undoubtedly stressful, especially when parents need to plan for their work schedules and childcare.
Contracting and spreading COVID-19 continues to be a severe threat for everyone. But the lack of accessible childcare and socialization also poses serious risks. Moreover, research shows that many children will fall behind academically if they are not physically present in school. For these reasons, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has come on record advocating for safe reopenings.
No matter how you’re feeling or coping with back to school stress, know that you’re not alone. Many parents feel overwhelmed with their children home all day. They’re trying to balance sudden homeschool efforts along with entertaining and keeping their children safe. Others appreciate all the extra family time. Most parents fall somewhere in between.
Adding to the stress, parents remain divided on their opinions about sending kids back to the classroom. A late June study found that over half of Americans feel somewhat uncomfortable or very uncomfortable with K-12 schools reopening this fall.Other parents can't wait to see their children back in the classroom. Regardless of what fall brings, the concept of education in a pandemic will continue to evolve.
How Can You Support A Child Dealing With Back To School Stress?
The effects of quarantine and social distancing undoubtedly impact the well-being of children of all ages. Kids rely on social support and prosocial interactions for their emotional health. Nobody knows the long-term risks associated with increased isolation from friends and family.
The best way to support your child is by simply listening to them. Ask them questions about their feelings. How are they coping? What’s it like missing their friends? What fears are they experiencing? Are they stressed about returning to school- or not returning to school?
As you listen, remember to avoid the urge to give advice. Parents often want to fix their child’s pain, but these efforts can sometimes feel invalidating. While some children may ask you for direct feedback, most kids just want adults to listen to them.
How Can You Work Through Your Stress?
We’re in a pandemic, and life probably won’t be feeling very normal for a while. Remember that it’s okay to feel sad, angry, or confused right now. We’re in difficult times, and most of us are feel lost with how to take care of ourselves.
That’s why it’s more important than ever to practice healthy coping skills. Aim to focus on what you can control. Maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. Practice relaxation techniques and lean on your support system for love and encouragement.
Remember that you play a profound role in modeling a healthy mindset for your children. They’re watching you navigate this stress. If you’re able to maintain a positive attitude- despite the uncertainty- they learn that it’s possible to remain calm even during trying times.
Most of this positive attitude comes down to perspective. Rather than catastrophizing that you’re doomed and things are hopeless, consider focusing on identifying what you can control and sharpening your gratitude. This strategy doesn’t mean discounting your feelings. It is simply taking care of yourself even when you have negative or difficult feelings.
What Else Should Parents Know?
It’s okay to have your personal preferences when it comes to navigating back to school. Some parents can’t wait to have their children return to the classroom. Others intend to homeschool their children indefinitely. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, remember that there just isn’t a perfect answer right now.
As we continue learning more about COVID-19, schools will continue to solidify their safety plans. Although the uncertainty can feel frustrating and even scary, remember that everyone else is in the same boat. As mentioned, you’re not alone!
Unfortunately, there aren’t any guide books for navigating a global pandemic. At any moment, we’re all doing our best to cope. Remind yourself this often as you cope with back to school stress. Try to be patient and kind with the process, even when it feels challenging.
At Elevate Counseling, we’re here for you and your family. While stress is inevitable, you don’t deserve to suffer. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.