Back to school season looks different this year. Everyone agrees, children learn best with in-person learning, but that isn’t a possibility right now. So what can we do to set our children up for a successful school year while also managing the stress and anxiety that comes along with the changes?
The stress surrounding back-to-school this year may feel overwhelming (even unbearable at times). Know that it’s normal to feel this way—and that you’re not alone. That’s the best way to begin to manage your anxiety. Here are some additional tips for creating a successful school year.
Build a support network
Utilize friends and family to support your family through the transition. Talk with other parents about their strategies and plans, vent to friends about how hard this time is. This can help alleviate some of the stress you’re feeling, while also helping to consider creative solutions and alternatives. Lean on your support system and let me know you are there for them, too. Don’t be afraid to reach out and join forces with other families to help not only yourself but your friends and your school community as well.
Routines are important for reducing stress and anxiety, especially for children. If possible, set up a dedicated school zone in your house. Make sure your kids continue to wake up at the same time, get ready for school as if they were attending in-person, and eat a healthy breakfast. Routines provide predictability and structure that make children feel more safe and secure. Having rhythms and routines in your day also alleviates the need to set new expectations each day, making the day run more smoothly.
Have open conversations
It’s okay to talk with your children about the situation, no matter their age. Ask them specific questions about their feelings. For example:
● What do you miss the most about being in school?
● What are the things you don’t miss?
● How is learning this new way working for you?
Let your children know it’s okay and normal to feel unsure, anxious, sad and even mad about the situation. Also let them know they have your support in expressing those feelings and talking about it with you.
Evaluate your stress levels
Don’t forget to check in with yourself during this time and evaluate how you are feeling. Feeling stressed is very normal right now while we’re all facing so much uncertainty about the future. Focus on sleeping well, eating well, and exercising—all shown to be natural ways of releasing some anxiety and staying mentally well. But if your anxiety gets to a point where it becomes so overwhelming that it’s affecting your daily functioning—in your job, in your relationships, in your sleep habits—it may be time to seek the help of a professional.
Your days this fall will look and feel different. Adjust your expectations accordingly. Whatever plans you had for this school year and expectations for extracurricular activities or academic performance need to be set aside. Your child may struggle more academically this year with distance learning. Understanding that, and knowing they are trying their best (along with everyone else) will help you manage your expectations and adjust accordingly.
Flexibility is so important during this process. No matter what decision you make about handling back to school, know that you can change your mind down the road. Things may look different in a few months, so your decision may change as well. And that’s okay. Continue to regularly check in with yourself about what feels comfortable for your family.
While COVID-19 continues to disrupt life around us, TherapyWorks is committed to you! Keeping focus on the emotional wellness of our community is our top priority. Now more than ever, we’re dedicated to keeping you connected to helpful ways to care for yourself and your loved ones — when it matters most! If you or someone you care about needs help, please reach out. Simply text WECARE to 474747 to be connected to a local therapist.
ABOUT MAALIEA WILBUR & THERAPYWORKS
Maaliea Wilbur is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Executive Director of TherapyWorks. With 10+ years of experience, Maaliea’s broad-level expertise allows her to successfully support kids, teens, adults, couples and families. Maaliea is passionate about providing top-notch care as a trusted resource in her community.
Life is unpredictable and real problems happen. It can leave you feeling stressed, frustrated and desperate for change. At TherapyWorks, we help people like you. We’re a trusted team of expert therapists with proven experience and a commitment to care. Together, we’ll take overwhelming situations and create positive results - one session at a time - so you can reach your potential and enjoy life. For more information visit www.mytherapyworks.com.