It’s that time of the year again! Whether your child is going into kindergarten, middle/high school, or is going off to college, "back to school" an exciting (and hectic) time for all of us. But this year, "back to school" looks different. A lot different.
There are a lot of decisions to make these days. Not so different than usual, except even the most basic ones—decisions we've never really had to think about before—seem impossibly hard.
One of the biggest decisions on many parents' minds lately has been the hard choice to either send their kids to school or to homeschool them. Or, if you’re a college student, making the decision whether you should go back to campus or stay home and take online classes.
Sometimes there are no right answers. There are only right-for-you answers. Or right-for-your-family answers. Or right-for-right-now answers.
My friends from Chicago will be homeschooling their kids this year. I think they made a good choice. That’s the best decision for their family.
My cousin will be sending his kids back full-time to school this school year. I think he made a good choice. That’s the best decision for his family.
My classmate from college has chosen virtual learning for her kids, at least for this first semester. I think she made a good choice. That’s the best decision for her family.
It's true that some people might be disappointed by the decision you make—after all, no matter what you decide to do, you're never ever going to please everyone. But if you know you're doing the right thing based on your own circumstances—there's no need to feel guilty. There's no need to explain. There's no need to feel bad.
You can walk forward knowing that you made the very best right-for-you or right-for-your family decision that you could—maybe it won't be perfect, but you're human and perfection doesn't exist.
We are all different. Our circumstances are all different. Our needs are all different. You can't expect there to be a right-for-everyone answer. But maybe we can agree that some decisions are hard for everyone to make. And maybe we can all choose our own answers to the tough decisions accordingly, moving forward and leaving the judgment behind. Let's not allow the weight of someone else's opinion to crush our own sense of what's right for ourselves and for our families.
Saying that the 2020 school year will look different than all of the others before would be a huge understatement. On top of all COVID related stressors, students also have the typical social and academic pressures that weigh heavily as they attempt to do it all: participate in sports, maintain good grades, spend time with friends and family, work a part-time job, and give back to their communities.
Now throw the current and future uncertainties of COVID into the mix, and even the most excited students can feel anxiety in anticipation of this "new normal" 2020 school year. So, what can you do to help create good mental health with your kids and families as they return to school?
According to Good Mental Health, LLC some examples of what you can do to promote good mental health are:
Create a routine. With so much change occurring at the beginning of a new school year, it is more important than ever to create stability and predictability at home. Implement a routine that works for your family and do your best to stick to that routine. Hungry, tired, stressed out kids (and parents) can’t perform their best. Eating healthy meals at predictable times, getting adequate sleep, and making room for some unstructured “down time” each day allows each of us to function and perform better.
Keep calm. Children imitate what they see. If we, as parents, are stressed out, short-tempered, and anxiety-ridden, our children will adopt similar patterns for interacting with the world. However, if we model calm, collected, emotionally regulated behavior, our children are more likely to imitate those behaviors instead. Model calmness whenever possible because getting angry, upset, and frustrated only makes anxiety worse.
Watch your timing. We’ve all been there: had to leave 5 minutes ago, yet we’re searching the house for homework that *should* have been placed in the book bag the evening before. Pressure mounting, we want to yell at the kids and relieve our own frustration. However, our interaction first thing in the morning sets the tone for their entire day. Should they put their homework away at night? Of course! Should you confirm that it’s been done before bed instead of when you’re hurrying out the door in the morning? Also, of course. Resist the urge to vent frustration and opt to teach at a more opportune time instead.
As we get into "back to school" mode, just remember to give yourself, your kids, and others grace during this time. Take time to prioritize mental health for yourself and your family, and encourage those around you to do the same. We can do this TOGETHER.