HANDLING BACK-TO-SCHOOL ANXIETY
Each and every year, anxiety for parents and children spikes around back-to-school time. This year, with the pandemic still going on, school stress is even higher than usual. Two main points are at stake: deciding what to do and dealing with uncomfortable feelings that could arise after that making decision. While almost no parent is feeling particularly confident about the school options available to them, it is possible to feel good about the process used to make those decisions.
Here are a few strategies that can help you feel more confident about the process:
1. Learn to accept the uncertainty. While it is evidently difficult to accept the unknown, it is also a healthy emotional coping skill to develop. Being conflicted is normal when facing confusion and perplexity. The goal is to make a realistic plan that will make students, teachers, and families as safe as possible.
2. Accept your feelings. To be a parent in the pandemic is to be worried and uncomfortable. Those feelings are unavoidable and, indeed, healthy psychologically speaking. So, the issue is not to have these feelings, but how you manage them. To avoid being hooked by one thought or feeling, instead try to view yourself as an observer of your mind. You can imagine these overwhelming thoughts or feelings as leaves floating down the stream that are detached from yourself and that go away from you.
3. Pay attention to grief. Sometimes, grief can be hidden below anger and rage over the prospect of more homeschooling. Instead, let yourself feel the sadness of your child not having a full experience of her new school year. You will then probably experience a relief.
4. Cultivate compassion. Instead of spending time chasing certainty and second-guessing your decisions, work on being self-compassionate; nurture a sense of good will toward yourself for facing this hard decision. Monitoring your self-talk is a key component of self-compassion. Are you holding yourself to an impossible standard by trying to predict the future? Are you blaming yourself for a situation that is completely out of your control? Let go of self-judgment and try developing some positive self-talk, such as: “I’m making the best choice for my family with the information I have” or “this decision works for us and our level of risk tolerance.”
Parenting is one of the most difficult tasks to handle. The pandemic has only intensified this role as uncertainty and confusion loom large. More than ever, parenting is an exercise of making the best decisions based on our current knowledge and then surrender.
As a parent and a therapist, I want to offer some tips on how to raise happy and healthy kids. Please feel free to comment on my posts.