Back To School Worries
Thinking about this year’s school plan is hugely stressful – I’m not even sure I have made the right decision about my kid’s education. What suggestions do you have for how we can get them prepared for whatever is coming?
Signed Back To School Worries
Dear Back To School Worries,
Whether your kids will be returning to the school, or trying home schooling, or tackling distance education options, they all need some of the same things to help them prepare and be successful. It can be boiled down to a few simple concepts – routine and structure; support and encouragement; and consistency and stability.
Get your kids on a schedule that works for school (and your own work/life needs) about 1 week before classes are scheduled to begin. Help them get back into the pattern of going to bed and waking up at certain times – of eating meals that work in whatever environment they will be in – of being in a rhythm that balances play time with school work time with homework/reading/extra support time. Work out any kinks or resistance as they surface, so there is less pressure on you all when school actually begins again. Get the school supplies ahead of time, figure out the classroom areas (in home or at school), and plot out the routes (from home to school; or from bedroom to kitchen to school space). Practice mask use in small increments when you are at home, so kids can become accustomed to wearing theirs properly for whatever period of time is required, in public and at school.
Build in times and ways of talking to your kids every day. Ask them about their school experiences of course, but go beyond that and check in with them about their mental health. Do they have any stressors or worries that have developed? Are they feeling safe and confident in everything that they are doing? What are their thoughts about what is happening in their worlds, with their lives beyond COVID? The connection to you/within the family unit is going to be the foundation that determines how well your kids navigate the unknowns that crop up over the next few months. And if any concerns arise, daily check-ins will ensure that you can spot them right away and can address them before they become a crisis for anyone. If you are talking more than they are, take note and stop. Ask open ended questions, to allow your kids to jump into a free flow narrative – use techniques that teach your kids the fine art of communication.
Create a rhythm for your school days and weekends/holidays and stick with it. We all feel less stressed when we know what to expect, and it takes far less energy to flow with the habits we create rather than needing to decide each and every day about what we plan to do. Flexibility is the key – the flow to your week does not have to be etched in stone. Let your kids make some of their own decisions about the kinds of activities they will do. But ensure that each category of need (physical activity, education and learning, connection time and social development, alone time and self awareness/reflection, sleep, nutrition and hydration, chores and responsibility, reading and mental growth, etc) is slated into each day, so they do not ever go without something that helps them stay healthy and in balance. Schedule the school days like work days, and weekends like holidays so responsibilities are met but down time is enjoyed as well.
Remember that we make time for whatever it is that truly matters the most to us. If we can teach this to our children, and show them that we practice it for ourselves, we will all have more stamina and patience for all the bumps in the road that always come along. This year will be no different. COVID related concerns might make us more aware of those bumps, but they surface every year at this time. Cut yourself and your kids a bit of slack – expect hiccups and roll with them as best as you can.