The familiar changing season is happening all around us, but this year there are many notable differences in our lives. Fall usually means a return to normalcy for parents and students as summer vacation ends and school begins. Months ago, we still had hope that the global pandemic would be under control, and children all over the world would return to school with slightly modified systems and procedures. Instead – parents, students, teachers, and other school personnel are tasked with one of the hardest decisions they’ve had to make: To return or not to return.

Returning to School

Whether your child is attending school in person or on a virtual platform, this new school year’s stress is like nothing we have ever experienced. Everything feels scary and uncertain right now, and everyone is concerned about making the wrong decision and the long-term impacts that may have. However, there is one thing of which we can be certain – we are all in this together.

To help manage your anxiety and perhaps, even find a silver lining during these stressful times, here are some tips and ideas to consider: Find a support system. If your child is participating in remote learning, reach out to other families experiencing the same things. All over the country, families are joining to help each other facilitate their children’s educational and socio-emotional needs. The details may look a little different depending on the circumstances, but creating a “pod” with other children will help take the load off parents and provide children with the social interactions that are an essential part of development in traditional school settings. How to Form a Pandemic Pod is an article from Greater Good Magazine with some guidance on how to approach this concept of group quarantined learning.

  • Be of service. Times are hard for most people right now. For some families – especially those who are stressed financially, have parents who are essential workers or have children with special needs – navigating school intricacies during a pandemic is far more difficult. Whether they are attending school in person or remotely, many details must be addressed daily. If you know of a family who could use some help (and you have the means to do so), consider reaching out to see if your family can be of service. Acts of kindness are a great way to support others in times of need and work wonders for your sense of well-being.
  • Have patience and empathy. This is a new experience for EVERYONE! Have patience and empathy for your children, their teachers, and yourself. No one really knows what they’re doing right now, and we can only hope that every day gets a little bit better.
  • Stay informed. Find a few resources for keeping yourself informed about what is going on with your child’s school, district, and community. The more you know, the better prepared you will be for any changes that may occur. If you have concerns, ask questions.
  • Be vigilant. Hand hygiene, mask-wearing, social distancing, etc. Whether your child is learning remotely or in person, stay alert to the safety protocols that health experts suggest, and talk to your child about being safe when you aren’t around. Be sure you find out what your school is doing to keep everyone healthy, as well.
  • Show your support. Let your child’s teachers know that you appreciate them and how hard they are working to make this as good an experience as possible. Find out what you can do to support them in their endeavor to provide an excellent education under extremely challenging circumstances. Show your child that you understand how difficult this is for them and find ways to promote positivity.
  • Know your limitations. Remember that you cannot do and be everything all the time. If you need help, ask for it. Maybe you aren’t cut out for being a teacher/tutor (not everyone is). It’s perfectly alright for you to delegate some responsibilities to those better suited for a task.
  • Take some time. Carve out some time every week for self-care and family-care. Meditate, do yoga, or exercise in the yard; take a walk by yourself or with the family; have a family movie night; read and relax; cook a nice meal. Whatever brings you happiness should be on the top of your list of priorities. Mental health is declining among adults and children during the pandemic, and it is important to check-in with yourself and loved ones.

The hard truth right now is that we have no idea when this will end. We can listen to the predictions made every day in the media and by experts, but nothing is certain. The only thing you can do is take it one step at a time, learn a little more every day, be as prepared as possible, and show yourself and the world a little love.

Lori Lite is the founder of Stress Free Kids and has authored 12 books. Stress Free Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Children Build Self-Esteem, Manage Stress, and Reduce Anxiety has been named a Best Stress Management Book of All Time. Angry Octopus Color Me Happy, Color Me Calm has been awarded the Mom’s Choice Award. Lori’s content is featured in hundreds of media outlets, including CBS News, CNN Living, WebMD, The New York Times, Family Circle, and Parenting Magazine.