Back to School Anxiety? 3 Tips Parents Need to Know for Managing Their Family’s Mental Health During the Pandemic

Stay healthy. Stay calm. This is a little mantra to keep in clear view for this year’s back to school calendar. With so much going on it is normal to feel stressed. With a situation filled with so much uncertainty it is normal to feel anxiety. As we begin the back to school season it is clear that this is a year like no other. So, whether your child is going back to kindergarten or college or whether your school is going hybrid, remote or fully in person, you’d better buckle up your seatbelts and get ready for a wild rollercoaster ride.

To begin, remember that you are doing you and you are making decisions based on what is right for your family. Try not to spend time comparing your decisions to those of others. Refrain from making judgements. Everyone is trying to navigate during this crazy time the best that they can. Have empathy for those who seem to be struggling a bit more. Regardless of what your family’s individual situation may be here are three creative strategies for managing the symptoms of stress and anxiety as you face the new school year ahead.

  1. Focus on the areas that you can control: There are so many things that are out of your control right now. Think about it. We are unable to control whether school will open or close. We are unable to control the global rate of disease spread. We cannot control if the supermarket will have the groceries that we need. And we cannot control when businesses will open or close. And perhaps the most frustrating part? We have no idea how much longer this pandemic will last? Weeks? Months? Half a year? Your guess is as good as mine. But until said time, let go of the things that you cannot control. Spend your time and energy focusing on the things that you can control. You can control your thoughts and attitudes. You can control how you spend your time. Try turning off the news and watching a program for enjoyment. Pick up a book or go outside and celebrate the beauty of nature. Help others and spread kindness. There are many amazing ways to find enjoyment during this unprecedented time.
  2. Establish Routines: Covid-19, working from home and homeschooling children have created a lack of structure for many. Routines are an excellent tool to help us cope with change and uncertainty. When you set up a routine you know exactly what to expect. With so much on your plate to manage, setting up a routine can make sure that you are not leaving out important components of self-care from your day to day. For kids a chalkboard or whiteboard is an excellent place to help them visualize routine. Give the kids some control with adding fun items to the calendar. For everyone’s health and sanity keep meal times and bedtimes on schedule. Make your routine fun! And remember not to over-schedule, it’s important to leave some room for spontaneity and silliness in there.
  3. Have Regular Mental Health Check-ins and Reinforce Ways to Cope: Check in regularly with you your loved ones to make sure they are managing their stresses okay. Remember, children often show stress differently than adults. Changes to eating, sleeping and loss of interest in things that they once enjoyed are common ways of kids show stress. Normalize the routine of talking about feelings. As parents it is our natural ability to want to solve problems and lessen our kids’ pain and discomfort. It is important, however, for our kids to come up with their own solutions on ways to cope with their stress. Try listening to your kids’ frustrations without giving advice. Ask them to find their own coping mechanisms which are self-soothing. Put the power in their hands to find ways to cope with a challenging and frustrating time.

Remember you are your children’s greatest teachers and their most adored role models. The better plan you have in place to manage your own Covid related stress and anxiety the better your children will do. For additional information the CDC has excellent resources for families on managing COVID-19 related stress.

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