The beginning of this school year will be like no other. Many districts have already announced their plans to reopen schools. To control the spread of the coronavirus and accommodate social distance and safety guidelines, some schools will be 100% online, while others have opted for a hybrid model. In this sea of less-than-perfect solutions, parents are left to figure out how to balance taking care of their children while attending to their job responsibilities.
The feelings of frustration, overwhelm and even despair that families experience are normal. While many families stayed strong to survive the shelter-in-place mandates over the last few months, keeping up an optimistic outlook on the situation has become even more difficult. Yet, we still need to find the courage to show up for ourselves and our families, and create a plan that will help us navigate these uncertain times.
As you are planning what to do this fall, consider the following:
- Your family needs may be different from others. Once you know what your children’s school or early childhood center is planning to do, consider the pros and cons of the different options and make a decision based on what works for your particular family. While there are parents considering social pods, hiring tutors or keeping children at home, that may not work for your family. Make a realistic plan that works for you.
- Don’t hide from your feelings. Feelings are data; they provide information about the experiences we are going through. We are still in a global pandemic, so it is normal to have difficult emotions. Name your feelings, so you can process them and have more clarity about what you need to do to take care of your family.
- Practice being open to change. No matter how much you plan for a successful fall, the likelihood that you will need to change plans is high. Try to keep an open mind about what the new school year will look like, and discuss it with your kids. You can say “You will be going to school 2 days a week, but that may change if the coronavirus numbers in our community increase”.
- Support your children’s feelings. Some children may be excited to go back to school with their classmates, while others may be afraid of getting the virus. Have a conversation with your kids about their emotions, and support these feelings no matter what they are. It is important for children to know that these feelings are normal, and that you are there to help them cope.
- Create a sense of excitement for the new school year. Even if your children will be doing distance learning in the fall, you can still engage them in preparing for the new school year. You can enlist the kids to organize their bedroom, and prepare a few school supplies. Use these moments to talk about the exciting things they will be learning this year.
With the new school year approaching, many parents are considering what to do with their children this fall. While there is no perfect solution, you can support yourself and your children to notice the positive things that this new school year will bring–new connections, new skills and the opportunity to strengthen our resilience.
Dr. Lorea Martinez is a social-emotional learning (SEL) consultant and researcher, supporting schools, teachers and families as they embrace and adopt SEL practices. She is a faculty member of the Summer Principals Academy at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is working on her second book for teachers, Teaching with the HEART in Mind. She frequently blogs about how to incorporate SEL in teaching practices and parenting.
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