It is likely that every parent is wondering how to navigate the new back to school normal and the struggle is real! It can be challenging to know how to make decisions that maximize mental health. This pandemic is an unprecedented event that’s difficult for everyone, especially since it’s layered on top of other stressors, from financial uncertainty to lack of personal space, increasing work demands for many, and the typical struggles of parenting without the usual level of support that many of us enjoy. There is no doubt that this pandemic is affecting children’s mental health and there is no magic solution here, we are all just doing the best we can. To that end, here are some strategies parents can try out:
1. Continue seeking reliable information
Acknowledge the amount of conflicting information you may be receiving and its impact on the family. We hear experts sharing a variety of perspectives on what is best for our children, from 100 percent in-person schooling to a hybrid model to online only.
The reality is that each option comes with its own risks. As always, we parents must face the fact that there is no way to shield our children from all potential harm. All we can do is consider the risks and benefits associated with each option, giving more weight to expert opinions from trusted sources and make the best decision we can in the moment.
2. Allow your child to share their feelings
You may be hearing “it’s not the same.” Or “why can’t things go back to the way they were.” Now more than ever, it’s important to provide space for your child to share their emotions, whether it’s sadness, fear, or flat out joy because they won’t have to go back to school in person this fall.
3. Boost your child’s sense of safety
Kids are incredibly perceptive, and they pick up on our worries and emotions. Children look to their parents and other adults for their sense of safety, so if we convey that they’re safe, they’ll likely feel safe. When you speak with your child about the coronavirus and the extra precautions schools are taking, try to be as calm and reassuring as possible. The Mayo clinic offers some practical tips on speaking to your child including sharing facts about the virus.
4. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize
As back-to-school makes already-busy days even more hectic, consider what absolutely must get done and what can you live without. The kids need to be fed and that work assignment may need to be completed by end of day, but the dishes in the sink? You can probably wait until the next morning to tackle these.
Remind yourself often that you are a human being tasked with a superhuman job, and you’re doing the best you can. Carve out time to take care of yourself, too, whether that means getting some exercise or planning a Netflix Party with your friends.
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