Going Back to School in the Face of COVID-19
By Alicia Lord, MA LPC
There’s no denying that no matter what your plan is, going back to school this year looks different. Whether your kids are going back to school in person, online, or a combination of the two, there are likely to be new and unexpected challenges that arise along the way. Unfortunately, getting back to “normal” isn’t something we can anticipate right now. Much of this semester will likely require us to roll with the punches and make the most of a hard situation.
In the light of COVID-19, we have put together some tips that might be helpful for you and your family as the school year starts.
Resist the urge to compare yourself to others. In this incredibly unique situation, each individual and family system is being required to determine their own risk tolerance. What feels right and safe for one family may not feel like an option for others, and that is okay. If sending your kids back to in-person school feels like the most important thing for you, that is okay. If doing online schooling feels the safest, that is okay. No one can determine what is best for your family except for you, and your perspective and desires matter.
Know that unexpected change is still possible. We have already had the experience of moving from life-as-usual to total shut-down, including the unexpected closing of schools. But just because it has happened before doesn’t necessarily mean that doing it again will be fun or easy. The potential of COVID exposure means that temporary closures are possible. You don’t have to expect the worst, but approaching the school year with a frame of flexibility may make your life easier if big changes are necessary once again.
Allow for big feelings — from everyone. Any year, we would advise that children be allowed to express their fears and sadness around going back to school. After all, it is a huge transition from summer break to 5 days a week of full-time school. This year, feelings are likely to be bigger and more intense because not only is summer over, but the school that kids are going back to looks and feels unfamiliar. But children are not the only ones who will likely have feelings about the transition back to school. As parents, it is normal for you to have challenges that need to be processed, as well. Sending your children out in to the world again might be really scary. Having to teach your children or manage their online school schedule may feel overwhelming and frustrating. Feelings are meant to be felt, and whatever feelings you are having are valid. Don’t be afraid to share your feelings, either. Your friends, your family members, and especially your children are most likely having similar feelings, so there’s no reason why anyone should have to shoulder them alone. Letting your kids know that you’re worried about the school year may just give them permission to express their worry, as well. Feelings are a great space for connection and mutual understanding, and hard times are ripe for this kind of growth.
Ask for help if you need it. The challenges of COVID-19 are many, and most of them are challenges we (and our children) have never had to face before. Heightened stress, economic challenges, work instability, lack of social connections, increased screen time, health concerns, and many more…all of these are contributing to a higher level of distress across our society. It is normal for parents to be struggling. And it is normal for kids to be struggling. It is in times like these, when distress is high, that counseling can be so helpful. If you are tired of trying to handle all of these challenges on your own, please reach out to one of our centers. We are here to support.