A school year has never started with so much uncertainty and controversy.
Without clear and consistent directions or guidelines, parents are left to make very difficult, painful, and consequential decisions about their children’s education. Will it be detrimental to your children’s mental health to keep them home, or will it be detrimental to their physical health to send them back to school?
There is no simple choice and every option is fraught with its own set of risks. Your family, friends, and neighbors all seem to have strong, but opposing, opinions and you know there will be plenty of blame and shame thrown your way regardless of what you do.
The stress is overwhelming. And, regardless of their age, our children feel it. The epidemic is already having a detrimental effect on our children’s mental health, and they are looking to us to remain a calm and grounding force in their lives. How are we supposed to do that with all that is going on right now?
Let’s face it, this is going to be hard! Perhaps the best thing we can do is accept that fact and simply try to do the best we can on any given day. Some days will go smoothly, and other days will feel chaotic and out of control. And that’s OK. In the end, this is a huge opportunity to help our children learn and practice resilience. We can do hard things. We may not do things perfectly, but we can survive.
We don’t have easy answers for you, but perhaps the following tips will help you get through days that feel impossible:
- Be Honest
Your children may hear frightening news at school, or from the friends they stay in contact with. Someone in another child’s family may get sick, or a teacher may become ill. Talk about it honestly and trust that your kids can handle the truth.
- Share your Feelings
Children will pick up on your feelings anyway, so you might as well share them and talk about ways you are doing your best to cope. All feelings are OK to have, even the bad ones. What matters most is what we do with those feelings. Another great lesson for kids!
- Practice Gratitude
Find something to be grateful for every day. Studies have shown that being grateful, even for the little things in life, can help people remain positive. Maybe have the family make a gratitude jar so that everyone can practice gratitude?
- Accept Responsibility When You Make a Mistake
We are human and we will make mistakes. We will get frustrated and say things we regret. We will forget to do things we were supposed to do. We won’t always get it right. Acknowledge your mistakes and apologize when you hurt someone, even inadvertently. Kids are forgiving.
- Give Yourself a Break
Don’t beat yourself up so much! Remember, you are doing the best you can with the information you have at any given moment. Don’t waste your energy on what you “could’ve” or “should’ve” done differently yesterday. That day is over. Concentrate on today.
- Connect by Disconnecting
Human connection is more important than ever. Try to find time everyday, perhaps at dinner, where everyone in the family turns off devices and makes an effort to connect.
- Find Your People
Whatever you are feeling, you are not alone! Talking with other parents who share your experiences can be reaffirming. If you have a child, teen, or young adult who is struggling with mental health challenges, we offer free and confidential parent-to-parent support meetings.