Help for Parents as Kids Start School During COVID-19

Everything continues to feel uncertain these days, especially when it comes to the 2020-2021 school year.  Some school systems are having in-person classes, while others are choosing to begin the school year virtually.  Other schools are offering the choice of virtual or in-person schooling.  In the Savannah area, we are seeing a varied approach to the upcoming school year.  Some families may even find themselves sending one child to school while another child has to begin the year virtually.  Compounded with the wide range of approaches is the fact that parents of children starting virtually will still have to work, and parents with students at school starting in-person are left wondering if the school will shut down after the first few COVID-19 cases.  As adults, this uncertainty is hard to wrap our minds and emotions around.  It is hard to make plans, line up childcare, and work from home.  It is hard to worry if you are doing the right thing and wonder if your child catch COVID-19 at school and bring it home to the family.  Imagine what our children are feeling and sensing as we try to manage all of this stress and anxiety.

Times of high anxiety are hard.  They cause us to have short fuses, sleepless nights, and times of not feeling like our normal selves.  As we embark upon this school year, I think we can all agree that it is going to be a high stress time with much uncertainty ahead.  The therapists at Water’s Edge Counseling have some tips for parents to help you stay ahead of your anxiety and deal with this stressful time in the best way possible.

  1. Focus on the Positive. Whether your child will be embarking upon a virtual or in-person school journey this year, take time to think through the positive aspects of whatever route you are taking.  It is easy for us to focus on all of the things we may be missing out on.  Make a list of five to ten positive things about the way this school year will start.  Maybe you are going to get more one on one time with your child at home,  or perhaps, you are grateful your child gets to be back in the classroom.  Whatever you can think of that is positive, jot it down.  Maybe you just need to start with something as simple as, “Today, our family is healthy or today, we have food on our table.”  However small or big your list may be, train your mind to start being grateful and thankful in the midst of hardship and chaos.
  2. Assume the Best About your School or School System. One thing is for sure, there are many different ideas and opinions going around about how this pandemic should be handled.  Daily, the data and recommendations seem to change, and everyone is left wondering exactly what to do.  School administrators and leaders are having to make really tough decisions right now.  They are looking at things from a big picture view and trying to do what is in the best interest of their students and employees.  Assume the best of these leaders.  Support them and encourage them, and offer assistance to your teachers and administrators.  This is a high stress time, and everyone is doing the best they can with the information they have.  Being skeptical and negative will feed your stress during this time.  Assuming the best and staying positive will help to combat the stress and anxiety.
  3. Set Clear Boundaries for Your Family. Each family unit will find itself in a different situation this fall.  Go ahead and set clear boundaries for your family and communicate these to your children.  For example, perhaps you are alright with your child attending school where they will be with the same set of students all day, but you are not okay with your child attending a large group sporting event or spending the night at friends’ houses.  Go ahead and let your child know what boundaries your family will be setting so that everyone is on the same page as events and invitations arise.  Some children will struggle with this as their friends may have different family boundaries than your family, but this is a good time to solidify your family as a team who supports each other and sticks together.
  4. Be Flexible. One thing is for sure, nothing feels “normal” right now, and things are changing daily.
    This is especially hard for those of us who like to plan and have schedules and routines.  This school year will be anything but “normal.”  Go ahead and begin preparing yourself for the reality that things will change.  As the number of positive COVID cases change, school decisions and social distancing practices may change.  The future is very unknown at this point, which means that we need to hold our schedules and plans very loosely.  Talk to your children about this as well.  Let them know that things could change, but also let them know that you are in this together.
  5. Reach Out For Help. If you find yourself struggling as your kids begin in-person or virtual learning or if the stress and anxiety become too much, please give us a call.  Our therapists have helped many parents and families deal with the stress and anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  We have virtual and in-person sessions available, and we are here for you if you need us.  Give us a call at 912-319-5552.