2020 has been a crash course in adaptability, and as summer winds down, the uncertainty with school only strengthens it. Many school districts have published and revised their plans several times, and school hasn’t even started yet. E-learning, remote, hybrid are new vocabulary words, and there has been record breaking attendance at school board meetings. For schools that do have a plan in place, the specifics of what the school day will look like remains unknown. Even as the school year begins, many questions how long the current plans will be sustainable. This is complicated, stressful and worrisome to parents, let alone to the kids and teens who are looking to them for guidance and support. Here are five tips to help curb the impact of uncertainty as we get back to school this fall.
- Be a role model. Kids and teens look to their parents to see how they react to situations. We all know the saying, “do as I say, not as I do.” Turn that around; incorporate the healthy behavior you are asking kids and teens to follow into your own life. This not only shows that you’re a team player but also models the importance of what you are asking of them.
- Encourage open communication. With the new back to school plans, questions are normal and expected, but kids are often hesitant to ask. Set aside time to talk about the upcoming school year and communicate what you know in age appropriate terms. If you are asked a question you don’t know the answer to, communicate that you will look into it and get back with them. For older kids, you can do the research together. Take time to discuss feelings about the school year, including worries, and losses related to missing out on sports or activities. Openly talking about uncomfortable emotions normalizes the experience and creates an opportunity to discuss healthy ways to cope and use family for support.
- Create structure. This can be a challenge, especially with the built-in changes to many of the return to school plans. Without adequate rest, even small challenges have a significantly greater impact. Develop healthy evening routines, making sure that kids and teens are getting enough sleep, putting down screens an hour before bed and taking responsibility to set their own alarms. Morning routines are equally important. Even with E-learning, waking up, getting dressed and having breakfast before school is necessary. Making sure each student has their own work area, ideally not in bed, is helpful when more than one person is working/learning from home. Lastly, classrooms have rules and its helpful to set up and post expectations for E-learning too.
- Practice flexibility. There have been so many things outside of our control this year and plenty of opportunities to model having a flexible mindset. Think of changes as a “plot twist” rather than a frustrating setback.
- Prioritize play. Many of the typical family summer vacations were put on hold leaving both kids and adults bored and feeling isolated. Take time to be creative and find ways to have family fun even without leaving home. Some ideas include a night in at the movies, recreating a favorite restaurant meal or learning a new game. Ask kids for suggestions or rotate who picks the meal/activity each week.
There is nothing typical about back to school this year. Take 2020 as an opportunity to be creative, and find new ways to keep connected. The team at the OCD & Anxiety Center wishes you and your families a solid and enjoyable start to the school year. Feel free to reach out to us at 630-522-3124 or firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or comments!
Stacy Gronek, LCPC is a licensed therapist at The OCD & Anxiety Center in Oak Brook, IL. She specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy for anxiety, OCD, and anxiety-related disorders. She is comfortable working with children and adults and consistently incorporates parents into the treatment process providing parent training and coaching.