This year has been a nonstop series of unexpected events. As we head into a school year like no other in our history, many parents and kids are experiencing anxiety and stress. Whether you’re working from home and managing remote learning or returning your children to school knowing that the environment has drastically changed, your feelings are valid. 

We know we can all get through this TOGETHER, but it’s going to take more than the average back-to-school pep talk to overcome the discomfort 2020 has delivered.

Morning Dance Party

Yep. You heard us. Crank up some tunes and get the good vibes going. Not just on day one, but every day. This isn’t just for entertaining the kids, it’s actually been shown to have a huge impact on your overall mood. According to Very Well Mind, it can reduce stress, spark motivation, and alleviate depression. 

This is something you will both need. You will both have feelings of worry and uncertainty as you enter this uncharted area. Having a fun and goofy moment to look forward to each day will help you go into your work/school day with a burst of energy.

Coordinated Communication 

Now more than ever you and your kids have to do lots of talking about how things are going. Rather than allowing frustration to boil, take the time to talk. Share with your child some frustrations you’re having working from home or operating in the world. Right now isn’t the time to put on a happy face and pretend. Not only will it make your child feel like there’s something wrong with them for being uncomfortable, but it will put a lot of pressure on you to keep up the “always happy act.”

Schedule a “kid check-in” alarm on your calendar. It will give you a break from work and give your kids a chance to chat about where their head is at. Whether you’re texting while one of you is away from the house or having a little midday snack n’ chat, this intentional effort to communicate will help you both realign during the day.

Take Breaks from Each Other

You also need space! Especially if you’re both operating out of the house. We’ve all been living on top of our loved ones, but now the pressure of school might make a claustrophobic setting suffocating. Stress takes up a lot of space in the house. You and your children need breaks from one another. Whether you go for a run or the kids ride bikes with their siblings, be mindful of the need everyone will have to break out of the routine. 

Even if your children are attending school, a lot will have changed and it’s necessary for parents and children to still lead some of their lives independently. Some ideas may include:

  • Do a takeout picnic with your spouse while the kids hang with trusted relatives
  • Set up a movie theater in the kids’ room and give your children a solo movie night
  • Put a sandbox in the backyard, a set of drums in the garage, workout equipment in the spare room, a meditation corner on the porch – fill the spaces in your home with little escapes

For weeks and then months, a lot of us have just been getting by, bumping up against one another in our small spaces. Now, with school starting, it’s time that we carve out some independent time and bring in some positive, individualized activities.

Grace

We all need grace right now. Have it for yourself. Have it for your kids. Remind yourself of what a small thing one homework assignment or one lesson is. If you’re struggling or your kids are struggling, just stop. Inhale and exhale. Each of us are learning how to deal with everything one day (sometimes one hour) at a time. When you see all the signs that something isn’t working (tears, anger, frustration, yelling, forcing, quitting, etc.) hit pause. 

Too often we try to force ourselves through the discomfort instead of stopping and readdressing. Our kids are confused. We don’t have as many answers as we’d like. 

If there’s one thing we need to introduce into this “new normal” it’s grace. Before we were all so busy and so stressed that we steamrolled through. Now that life is moving at a slower pace, we can offer ourselves and our kids more room to breathe. 

Literal Support

One of the best ways to support your student and your sanity is to get ACTUAL SUPPORT. Don’t put the pressure of doing this all alone on you and your kids. The teachers have been gearing up their online resource efforts, stay in touch with them regularly. There’s also books on homeschooling, paid tutors and instructional programs available. Take advantage of anything and everything at your disposal. Trade off with your spouse, bring in your retired teacher mother-in-law, clone yourself… whatever it takes and whatever is at your disposal should be deployed early and often. 

You’ve done hard things. You’ve made it six months into this. Don’t let the next step be the one that brings you down. Keep lightness and levity in your home, it’s hard to find elsewhere. Talk to the ones you love. Treat yourself with care and calm. And bring in all the resources you can. The 2020-2021 school year is like nothing we’ve ever seen, so allow yourself the space to adjust and grow with your child in this unusual time.