Typically, getting ready for the “Back to School” season includes shopping for school supplies and checking out class lists to see which friends and teacher your child will have.
I think it’s safe to say this year you have more important things on your mind than which colored pencils to purchase. Parents across the country are struggling to decide on things such as in-school vs online learning, childcare schedules, and safety measures to protect their family.
If you are like most parents, you may be experiencing a higher level of anxiety. This is completely understandable considering the circumstances. After all, no one has any experience blending back-to-school concerns with a pandemic, so we are making things up as we go! Let’s take a quick look at anxiety, and then I’m going to share a few strategies that will help you begin the school year with ease and confidence. When anxiety pops up, it is usually because we feel a lack of control in a situation. When we don’t know what to expect our minds can create all kinds of disasters and challenges that may or may not be realistic. During this Covid-19 pandemic, it’s easy to get lost in the flood of “expert” statistics and recommendations and to feel completely lost in what is the right thing to do. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. Conflicting information leaves us second-guessing every decision we make. Because of this, I wanted to give you a few strategies that will give you a sense of control amid the chaos. 1. Trust your instincts
As a parent, it’s your job to make the best decisions for your family. You know your child best. You know his learning style, maturity level, and academic needs. While it is tempting to follow the lead of your best friend or the group of moms you hang out with, you know what is best for your individual child. Go with that! In the decision of online vs. in-class learning, each family has to decide which situation fits the needs of your family and your child’s learning style. Some kids do really well with online learning, others struggle because they need interaction with their teacher. There is also a lack of socialization that is affecting some children. While the instant change to online learning wasn't ideal in the spring, it did give you a sneak peek into how your child will handle the situation. This can help you decide if online learning for the entire school year could be a good match for your child. In addition, some of you have family members who are health compromised or elderly parents living with you. If this is the case, then in-school learning may bring some challenges on the homefront. This decision is very personal and unique for each family. You do you and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. 2. Build on what worked
One of my stepcouple clients mentioned their daughter, Megan, struggled with online learning when her school shut down in the spring. Apparently the lack of a school day routine had her wandering off and avoiding long hours in front of the laptop. While discussing the challenges of this situation, the husband mentioned in passing that it seemed to help when he would make her a list of things she needed to get done. BINGO! Lists helped Megan stay on task? Yay! That was the little glimmer of hope we could work with. We proceeded to build a back-to-school plan on this one little tidbit of success!
Megan’s stepmom offered to make some reusable checklists for Megan on her “home learning” days this fall. She was excited to be a part of the solution and she was going to ask Megan to hep decorate the lists. The lists included: A) Mourning Routine (getting dressed, eat breakfast, brush teeth, etc)
B) School Assignments Checklist (to be updated each morning as assignments come in)
C) Evening Routine (dinner, pack backpack, shower and pajamas, reading, bedtime) Dad and stepmom felt so relieved knowing they’re going into the school year with a plan that fits their daughter’s learning style and needs. 3. Set routines
While summer is a time to toss out routines and have lots of outside family fun, within a few short weeks that will need to change. Now is a good time to start gently nudging towards bedtime routines, like reinstating reading time after baths, if that’s something that has gone by the wayside during summer. It’s also a great time to begin thinking about what routines you’ll need once the kids return to school. Some families will sign up for strictly online learning. What would a routine look like for that situation in your home?
Perhaps your children will start with eating breakfast, then move on to brushing teeth and getting dressed, and then beginning schoolwork by 9 am. Setting a specific start time will help everyone, you included, keep to the schedule. Other families will experience "hybrid" learning, where some days are in school, other days at home. In this situation, it will be really helpful to have routines in place so your family doesn’t always feel like it is scrambling to figure things out. You'll know on Monday, Wednesday and every other Friday we need to follow our online school schedule, and on the remaining days we will plan for the kids to be with their teachers.
Why are routines important?
In the chaos that is our schooling situation this year, it will be so helpful for everyone to get into routines, kids and parents alike! When kids know what is expected of them, or what is coming up next, they can make informed decisions about their behavior. It’s easier to hit a target (expected behaviors) if you know what the target looks like.
In addition, children shift from one activity to the next with greater ease if it’s something familiar to them. Consistency breeds cooperation and less resistance.
You’ve got this!
While this all may seem overwhelming right now, things will settle in. Yes, there is some unpredictability in this upcoming school year. Some of you may begin the school year with a hybrid schedule and then have to shift to strictly online learning. Having routines planned out for both will help you be flexible and prepared for whatever the next week may bring. Like these tips? Get more by signing up for my weekly email by clicking this link.
If you are feeling unsettled about school or another parenting concern you have, I’d love to help you reduce your worries! Simply click here to book a Parenting Strategy Session during which I will help you build a unique, customized plan of action for your family. Photo by Wix Media Photos