Most school years start with both anticipation and anxiety. We want the best for our kids and have a million questions. Who will be in their class? Will they fit in? Who will be their teacher? This particular school year… well, many of those questions seemed secondary. And this year, we were asking will there even be school? Will they get to see their teacher or their friends in person? Will they learn what they’re supposed to for their grade level? Whether they’re attending school with masks or joining their classes online, our students are likely wrestling with a lot of unknowns. As a parent, you can help make your home a secure island of stability in an ocean of uncertainty. And if your home oasis is not currently an island of peace like Fiji or the Caribbean, then consider these ways to “take back your island.”
1. Acknowledge emotions and add perspective. Life is already full of challenging circumstances, but a pandemic introduces more doubt into daily life leading to troubling new emotions. The uncertainty and doubt can be difficult to manage for an adult, even more so for a kid. Parents can set an example for their kids by acknowledging the situation, thoughts and emotions and by verbally sharing reasonable expectations:
“Wow, I am so disappointed that you are missing out on the fall school activities that are so important to you. I sometimes have troubling thoughts that my own job will be changed forever too, and it makes me afraid. But I know that’s not likely to happen. Many countries are already back at work and school. We can be patient and see what happens.”
2. Develop a routine. Adults and kids alike benefit from routine that give us a rhythm in our day and provide structure. Consider getting your kids up at the same time for school whether they are going in person or not. Have them dress for class rather than stay in their pajamas. You can even make household chores part of the curriculum. Don’t forget to prioritize sleep. A good night’s sleep goes a long way toward being healthy, creative and peaceful.
3. Take time for fun. Hard work is important for schooling, especially schooling from home. But make sure you’re scheduling time for fun – an important aspect of behavioral activation that makes us more depression-proof. Look for unique opportunities that are especially accessible during COVID-19. Maybe it’s easier to get away now that weekends aren’t full of activities. Or maybe there’s the chance to learn a new skill if school sports are canceled.
Whatever the schooling situation for your kids, you can provide that island of security in this current ocean of uncertainty. You can help your kids grow and cultivate resilience by providing empathy and life perspective, introducing structure and prioritizing fun. Taking back your home as an island of security for your kids is also an opportunity for the parents to grow.