Back to School Blues

Traditionally, when the days get a bit shorter and the cicada begin to chirp, it evokes any number of familiar sensations and memories.  September marks a pivotal transition time in our culture.  There are jitters about returning to the hallowed halls, supplies and backpacks and clothing to buy.  It is also a time when we mostly look forward with positive anticipation to the promise of new beginnings.

Never in our wildest imaginations could we imagine that this year, return to school 2020, would hold with it the incredible weight of deciding not about what to buy or what to wear, but whether or not to return to the brick and mortar school campus at all!  This year comes with a newfound and unprecedented set of worries and a level of anxiety and questioning that has at its’ core, ‘Is it safe and should I send my kids back”?

Many have expressed concerns and worries over your decision to send or not send your kids to school.  To send or not to send?  Opt for virtual learning, land somewhere in the middle with a hybrid?  And as a parent myself, I realize that the plans being made right now by our school districts are subject to change again and again, and very possibly again.  I operate under the ‘assume good will’ theory and know, or choose to believe that everyone, including these large systems, schools, have leaders who are doing their level best to make the best decisions they can, with the information they have at hand, in light of the dynamic and swiftly changing data.

Whatever your choice, know and believe that there is no such as thing as the right decision or the wrong decision in this matter.  This calls for us to be courageous and confident in our own knowledge of what works for each of our unique situations and our unique children. The basic truth is that schooling and education Is going to look and feel different no matter which path we choose.  So, take comfort in knowing you are not alone, and that many share similar concerns to the ones recently expressed by so many parents.

Concern: Falling Behind

Fortunately or unfortunately, all of our children are in the same boat with having lost instruction and preparation for the next grade or phase of their academic progress. Yes, some children will and perhaps did fare better, nonetheless, it would be impossible to use the same standards of measurement as the adapted learning methods are going to take time to be integrated, taught and developed post-COVID-19. Ultimately, the system and its expectations will have to change in order to adjust for the time lost in school, in athletics, etc.

Concern: Social and Emotional lags

We all feel isolated right now, not just the kids.  Use safe circles of friends, your quarantine pod and make the most of opportunities to socialize and connect.  Once again, there is no right or wrong answer. Children who attend in school classes will have access to peers, but that access will be much different than it once was.  They are together but separate.  Another thing to weigh is that each child/teen/young adult has a different need or desire for socialization.  An introverted child will need less and an extroverted child more.  We don’t all calibrate equally in this domain.  Don’t make anxious assumptions that less opportunity is necessarily detrimental.  Quality over quantity!

Concern: What if someone gets sick?

This is a deep burden to carry and it doesn’t help that the media continues to blast frightening statistics at us without rest.  Do remember that self-care is the name of the game during these scary times.  Limit the amount of social and other media that you inject or allow your child to access on a daily basis.  Stick to your routine, stick to the basics.  Eat well and sleep well.  Make good decisions for yourself and that alone can limit your risk as well as your perceived risks.

According to a communication from the CDC, “The best available evidence indicates that COVID-19 poses relatively low risks to school-aged children. Children appear to be at lower risk for contracting COVID-19 compared to adults.”

This suggests that our children are at a lower risk, which comforts me in my fears for my child.  Worrying about worst case scenarios only hi-jacks our logical thinking and takes over to drive negative thinking that causes our bodies to suffer.  Not to mention, our children are taking their cues about how to think and feel about COVID-19 from us!

Concern: My child will be nervous if I send him/her to school.

Our children are hardy and can adjust to new situations fairly swiftly.  It is their gift. Remember back to March 2020, and think about how quickly most students adjusted to virtual home learning.  Your child will likely absorb new information about the virus only as she/he feels it’s pertinent to self and family.  Answer what is asked, in a way that you know your child can resonate with, correct the automatic assumptions they may have and reassure them.

Concern: Special Needs, special concerns.

Become an even better advocate for your child than you already are.  Consult with teachers, enact and enforce your child’s entitlements, do not allow the student to fall through the cracks.  Get creative and set up a system at home that you know will allow for the best possible outcomes for your unique situation.  You are the expert on your child!  Do not hesitate to ask for help.

Lastly, please give yourself a break.  There is no one way to do this, we have no previous experience or reference point.  No one does!  Some anxiety during disruptive events such as this are an absolutely normal and adaptive response.  Constantly worrying about how to get ‘back to normal’ is a dead end trip.  Remember, “Worry is a misuse of the imagination”.  Dan Zadra

ARTICLE BY: Dr. Tracy L. Scanlon, Outreach Teen & Family Services