As the new school year begins, or quickly approaches depending on where you live, parents face a long list of uncertainties and what-ifs. The question becomes, how do we deal with a school year where circumstances might dramatically change day-to-day?
It is a question all parents are facing and struggling to find good answers. Though every family’s situation is unique, here are a few universal suggestions from experts on how to help your children, and yourself, cope with the school year ahead.
Helping Your Children
- Take Time to Talk
Keep in mind that children have been navigating an ever-changing educational environment turned upside down by COVID-19. Naturally, they are going to feel a little stressed and confused. Nothing is the same and that can be scary for kids—even older children in high school and college have worries and concerns that may be weighing them down.
- But Watch Your Words
Remember that your kids look to you for guidance on how to react to stressful situations. Most children are desperate for normalcy and hope the new school year will be more stable than it was last year. Be honest in your conversations, but work to keep a positive perspective and attitude in your discussions.
- Create a Plan for Transitioning
Start by talking with your kids about what school will look like for them this year. Help them understand that there might be changes in the plan throughout the year. Allow them to ask questions and share their concerns. From there, start developing a plan together on how you’ll handle different scenarios.
- Stability Through Structure
Children do best when they are in a structured environment, regardless of where they are learning. Try keeping to a regular schedule during the week. Doing so helps your kids stay on task and be more productive. It will also provide a greater sense of stability, control and predictability.
- Turn to your Support Groups
Uncertainty and change can be stressful, and as the school year unfolds, there promises to be a lot of each. Don’t feel you have to shoulder it alone. Turn to your support groups for help. Discuss your challenges with family, friends and loved ones. Share your concerns. Ask for support. The simple act of sharing with others will be therapeutic and might lead to surprising solutions.
- Control What you Can, Ignore the Rest
It’s easy to get caught up in the "what-ifs" and dwell on the unknowns of the school year ahead. Instead, focus on those things you can actually control. One popular strategy is making a list of what you can and can’t control. Identifying each can be empowering and show you where to invest your time and energy.
- Focus on the Positives
With the school year promising to be a rollercoaster ride, including possible jumps back and forth from in-class to home-based learning, you need to understand the challenges, but embrace the advantages of each. Both offer upsides to you and your children – find them, talk about them, and appreciate them.
- Do your Homework, Stay in Touch
The more you know, the more prepared you’ll be to deal with whatever might come. Talk to your school about learning options and what support tools they offer. Meet with your children’s guidance counsellors and teachers for updates. Stay in contact with your PTA or PTSA. Talk with the parents of your child’s classmates. Work to stay in the know.
- Talk to Your Employer
Trying to balance parental responsibilities with work life can be a major cause of stress. Truer now more than ever. Be honest with your employer about the issues you face. Be proactive discussing potential conflicts and express your desire to find workable solutions. Ask for their help. Companies recognize these are unusual times and are usually willing to help.
When it comes to the 2020–2021 school year, it's OK to not have all the answers. No one does.
Most experts agree that the school year will likely be an ongoing work-in-progress. Learning how to be comfortable with that reality, and finding ways to work through the uncertainty, will help you and your family maintain a healthy perspective and positive outlook for the year ahead.