As we head back into the 2020-2021 school year during a global pandemic, we are facing hurdles we have never had to consider before. Chances are, you and your family are feeling anxious, fearful, or out of control.
As parents, we want to know that we are giving our children the very best education possible, and these very real fears and anxieties can be overwhelming. Will my kids fall behind in achievement? Will their social anxiety increase with lack of interactions? How can we create patterns in our home so we aren’t living in actual chaos? How can we support our kids without losing control ourselves?
According to a 2020 Deloitte study, 79% of students received digital learning content provided by their school this past spring, 56% of parents were satisfied with the education their kids received, and 66% of parents are anxious about their kids going back to school.
Now that we know we will be in either hybrid or fully remote learning this year, we can start planning on how best to cope, learn, and achieve.
Our goal as your mental health partner is to help you create daily patterns to rein in the chaos of learning and working from home. We want to give you tools and ideas for building and maintaining relationships for you and your kids during distance learning, and help you and your kids to manage grief for the loss of some vital experiences during these formative years. Finally, we hope to give you tools to help manage worry and anxiety in yourself and your children as you navigate back-to-school challenges with your family.
One powerful way to keep yourself grounded is to create a flexible pattern to follow every day. Rigid schedules can actually feel limiting and increase stress if a day doesn’t go to plan.
Creating flexible patterns in your life can be simple things that can give you a sense of normalcy and something to look forward to during the day. It can be very simple: maybe you want to keep a gratitude journal this year, or make sure you get 30 minutes of exercise in before lunch, or hey – when school lets out, bust out the lemonade and fancy glassware for a family “happy hour” to celebrate making it through another day.
Let’s face it: distance learning, and staying at home,can be isolating. For some people staying at home has actually been a positive experience. If you are a parent and are concerned about how staying at home has affected you or your child, here are some things to consider:
Don’t dwell on what we can’t do – there are still plenty of ways we can be kind to our neighbors and families and make sure we see other faces from a safe distance! Bake your neighbor some cookies and chat on the porch for 5 minutes, call grandma, or visit a friend through their window. Even letter writing is a great way to practice socialization and keep up relationships you can’t see in person.
It’s especially important to keep our kids practicing these small acts of socialization every day during this pandemic since they aren’t getting the practice they normally get during school, sports practices, and other extracurriculars.
There is power in naming what you are feeling as grief. Allow yourself and your kids to acknowledge how you feel, and give yourself five minutes to really feel the feeling. This is the first step, and it is very powerful. Now keep going. Let the feelings move through you and find yourself in what comes next.
One thing to do to battle the grief is to not skip celebrating the milestones. Whenever possible, throw a digital party, celebrate big with decorations and everything, even if it’s just your family there. Invite others online to join in video calls. This year is not cancelled, it just looks way different from normal.
Worrying is part of the process of living. We have a lot of worries right now, and if you’re paying attention, new worries can be added daily! Some worries are actually helpful and give us an action we can do to help the situation. Sometimes worry is excessive and can get in the way of living well. When excessive worry becomes a heavier burden, it can manifest physically and become anxiety.
In order to avoid dwelling in worry all day, you can learn to postpone your “worry time” to a dedicated part of the day. Give yourself 20 minutes at the same time each day to gather your worries, write them down, and what type of worry it is. Often, simply dedicating specific time to, and writing down, our worries diffuses them significantly.
Breathwork is an active form of meditation and can help us bring our bodies back from a state of anxiety. Changing our breath pattern actually disrupts the “fight or flight” mode in our brain and brings us back to a sense of safety.
Try it! Belly breathing: Sit on the edge of a chair or the floor. Place one hand on your chest and one hand below your rib cage. Slowly inhale through your nose and feel your belly rise with your breath. Exhale through your mouth. Notice that your hand on your chest does not move, but the hand on your belly rises and falls with the breath. Repeat 15-20 times, up to 5 minutes.
We hope that these tips will help you and your family as you head back to school this pandemic year. Remember that what we are doing is hard, but it isn’t permanent. You can do this.
At Life Insight, we want to support you in any way you need this year. Don’t hesitate to reach out to schedule time with one of our therapists if you need additional support or want to learn more about any of the things we discussed today. We are just a call away.