I think this is one of the most difficult and scariest times in recent history for parents sending their kids back to school.
In the past there’ve been fears of terror attacks, bullying, and natural disasters but who thought a tiny microscopic virus would stop the world? Crazy, crazy times.
I’ve always thought of September, not January, as being the beginning of the new year. It’s such a beautiful time when we can usually get a fresh start in various life pursuits, but this year it looks like face masks, plexiglass shields, and hand sanitizer.
You really have no choice but to accept the new normal and embrace the change. I’d like to encourage everyone to try and remain at least semi-positive as we move forward with the back to school plans.
I know the news is full of stories about half-baked school plans for their September reopening but let’s face it, there’s more questions than there are answers. Let’s try and settle our nerves a bit so we can listen and observe.
One thing I don’t understand is the ongoing debate about masks. In my opinion every kid–Kindie and up–should be wearing one in the hallways, playground, and the classroom. Teachers too. Kids will fumble and possibly grumble but they’ll adapt.
When it comes to the return of school you need to examine the facts, fears, and shortcomings and make decisions that are best for you, your child, and your family.
Don’t be bullied into making a decision you’re not comfortable with. If it feels wrong or you feel forced, then step back and re-examine the situation. Going to school–or sending your child off to school–should not be shrouded in fear.
With our limited knowledge and experience with Covid, we don’t know what, if anything, will happen. This total unknown is causing huge anxiety, stress, and guilt for many parents, students, and teachers. Let’s take a look at each of these.
This internal whirlwind starts with a tiny emotional seed and grows with-in to wreak havoc both mentally and physically. Things like intrusive thoughts or worries can invade your life and cause sleeplessness, muscle tension, and a flood of emotions.
The thing about anxiety is that it can cause your heart to palpitate, your blood pressure to increase, and other physical symptoms that need to be acknowledged as real.
Don’t dismiss it as something that’s a constant thorn in the side. Really listen to your thoughts, feelings, and physical reactions and be ultra aware. Write them down so you know how your body and mind reacts.
If your blood pressure goes up when you think of taking your child to the local school and leaving them there then it’s anxiety you’re feeling.
- Will this stop you from leaving your child?
- Is this a “normal” reaction for you or is it over the top (ie: due to Covid)?
- Does your behaviour help or hinder your ability to deal with the situation?
- And, what can you do about it and hopefully not pass this anxiety to yourchild?
A certain amount of anxiety is normal when you leave your child at school but even more so in the middle of a pandemic. If your anxiety feels over the top, it may be time to talk to your family doctor. There are things like medication, exercise, or meditation that may offer some sense of relief for you. It could also be a true indicator of how you’re coping and perhaps the whole back-to-school experience needs to be altered to fit better into your family life.
The one thing you don’t want to do is pass all the anxiety onto the child. They don’t need adult issues and concerns–they’re kids. Believe me when I say that they will pick up on your anxiety. Kids are so smart.
We don’t want the kids to be complacent either. Ugh…it’s such a fine line to walk isn’t it? Kids need to respect the rules and know what is expected of them. If they’re anxious about going back to school–ask them why. Let them talk.
We need to remember how resilient and smart little kids are. They adapt much quicker and easier than adults. Talk to them about their fears. Are they mimicking you or do they have genuine concerns?
The best thing to do is be very honest with them and talk about the importance of masks, hand hygiene, and avoiding direct and close contact. This pandemic has been going long enough that they already know what’s going on and the restrictions that an unseen virus has placed on us.
For some, distance learning or homeschooling may not be a choice so do your homework.
It’s the fight or flight adrenaline pumping feeling of not knowing whether to run to safety or stay and slay the beast. The feeling of being out of control, or lacking control, is a part of being stressed. The pandemic threw us all into this feeling of fear and the unknown. We are learning to manage and that needs to be acknowledged.
This physical response of stress can lead to a feeling of being overwhelmed and an inability to decide which actions to take.
Sometimes when we’re stressed we can freeze up and not make a decision for fear of making the wrong one.
Stress, like anxiety, can have a physical and emotional impact. It can trigger headaches, stomach issues, irritability, and frustration.
Dealing with stress is much like dealing with anxiety. You need to be aware and acknowledge the issues surrounding the situation. Is it new? Do you know the direct cause of the stress? Do you need to talk to a professional? Are you breathing? (while this may sound like a stupid question you be surprised how many people hold their breath for lengthy periods of time when they’re stressed out.)
Is the stress yours or are you taking on stuff from others. You seriously don’t need to own other peoples stress. Turn off the news, get off social media, and take a deep breath with an aim to make the decision right for your family–and the key there is to look at what’s right for you and yours.
Making a decision to send your kid into a potentially harmful situation is terribly stressful. It’s all so new and unknown. Situations are different, yet similar, for many.
Things like not being able to return to work because childcare is required (if no school–what do you do?), the kids wanting to go back to school to see their friends, the teachers sounding alarm bells for themselves and students, for some children who rely on school meal programs returning to school is great, the experts say our children’s mental health is suffering due to isolation….
The list goes on and on….
There is no easy answer…
To feel guilt about sending your kids back to school is taking on the full weight of a personal transgression after being judge and jury against your own personal decisions. Does that make sense?
Let’s look at it this way….You’re scrolling through FaceBook and see all these posts from the seemingly perfect parents who would never even consider sending their precious little person back to school because there’s a virus out there and omg what kind of parent would I be?
But your true and silent thoughts run along the line of….
Oh my God, I can’t wait until school’s in and I can have an hour to myself for the first time in months. You giggle gleefully at the idea of having a shower without siblings fighting, screaming, and making demands. In other words, you’re feeling a bit different than that so-called-perfect parent on FB.
What you’re feeling is normal–I assure you. The need to separate from the kids and have peace and quiet doesn’t mean you love them less. I bet if you asked one of those “perfect parents” they too would agree–but only privately.
I consider guilt such a wasted emotion. It takes so much time and energy away from the reality. It feeds right into the anxiety and stress that fuel the uncertainly, indecision, and ultimate problem.
The fact is that we often judge ourselves and our decisions much more harshly than we’d judge others.
Be fair with yourself. Avoid comparisons and judgement. It’s not fair for you or anyone else. When you take the veil away from social media we see the ugliness behind the perfection and smiles…and that’s ok. It’s about reality.
Everyone has their own reasons for wanting something and yours are not selfish and unworthy simply because they’re yours.
For the parents who’ve been home with young children since this pandemic began, my hats off to you. I’d have gone completely insane by now.
I had one child and when he was two I put him into daycare one day per week. Why? For me. He was driving me crazy. He was a really good kid but my husband worked out of town at the time and I did it all and I needed a day alone…it was heavenly–but I didn’t have a pandemic to worry about.
Though I felt no guilt it was still a tough decision to make because I had this picture of the perfect stay-at-home mom in my head and I was falling short of that.
You need to weigh it out for yourself.
In the coming days you’ll have to trust your gut with the back to school thing. I don’t envy you having to make a decision. This is a really difficult choice. Would I send my kid back into the school? I honestly don’t know.
There’s no right or wrong. Do what’s right for you and your family as you look and see exactly what is feeding your negative response and then do something about it.
- If you need more information contact the school board or school.
- Look on their websites for the Covid protocals.
- Discuss the protocols with your children. Will they be able to adhere to them? Are they age appropriate?
- Make sure you have a stack of masks ready to go–always–for your kid and for yourself. Every family member should have several.
- Check out homeschooling if that’s what you want to do. This will be an alternative for some. I will tell you that it’s not easy–the teaching part or the constant having to be there part. Do your homework to see if there’s community support.
- Make any and all decisions together as a family and for the right reasons. Don’t make rash decisions out of fear or guilt. Guilt is not a reason on which to base a decision. Ever.
- Know where your limit is and what your back up plan is. If you go back to work and you receive word that your child’s class needs to isolate for two weeks, will you be able to do this? Talk to your boss. Maybe you can continue to work at home or be able to take leave. Prepare for all possibilities.
- Know it’s okay to ask questions of the teachers/principal/super-intendant. Keep asking until you understand. Be mindful that the staff is doing the best they can in a difficult and unique situation. Don’t take out your frustrations on them–they’re stressed and frightened too.
- It’s okay to have alternate plans. Do what’s right for you. Seriously…it really is okay to chose a different route for your child’s education. Whether it be a tutor, home-schooling, or right back into the classroom…
- This is a unique period in history. We will get through it.
Stay Strong. I wish you all well as you navigate this unparalleled time in history. Always remember to breathe and if you want to drop me an email…please do…just go to the contact page.
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