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Back to School in Uncertain Times

As we begin the school year, the global pandemic has created a lot of uncertainty in our daily lives.  Both parents and students are facing profound anxiety, fear, and stress.  Parents are having to make decisions regarding the health and safety of our children that we’ve never had to make before: Should our children wear a mask?  Is the COVID vaccine safe? Will there be social distancing in the schools?  Should we homeschool?

“Many kids have spent the past six months in an environment of instability – first, as they adapted to at-home learning and then as they experienced a summer filled with extra safety measures.  Now, some are returning to a school environment that may look very different from what they’re used to,” says Jonathan Ponser, LCPC, NCC, manager of child and family therapy at Memorial Behavioral Health.

Keeping abreast of information, discerning what’s best for our children and making wise decisions is taxing as well.  As we enter an unprecedented school year, here are seven tips for how to navigate these uncertain times.

  1. Stay on Top of the Information.  Ultimately, as parents, we are responsible for the decisions we make to keep our children safe.  Monitoring trusted news sources and even having a conversation with your child’s physician will help make informative decisions.
  2. Monitor the Center for Disease Control (CDC).  The CDC is a trusted source for guidance.  Leverage information available from the CDC to stay informed and healthy.
  3. Provide Your Children Assurance. While as parents we may have much anxiety regarding the policies of a safe return to school, our children are looking to us for leadership and comfort.  Don’t pass your stress on to your children.
  4. Employ Self Care. Like flight attendants say, “In case of an emergency, you must put the oxygen on yourself before you can assist your children.”  If you’re stressed and anxious, you can’t provide a stress-free environment to your children.  Take care of you.
  5. Communicate with Your Children Daily.  Let your children know that it’s important to you to hear what they are thinking and feeling.  Sometimes their stress and anxiety can be masked. Keep communications open. Make sure your children are seen, heard, and supported.
  6. Plan Weekly Down Time.  Decree a “no technology” day with your children. Plan family time devoted to having fun.  Watch a family movie, go for a walk, or go and get an ice cream cone! 
  7. Develop a Schedule.  Children operate best with boundaries and routines and when they know what is expected of them.