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Learn & Practice

Parents: It’s Going to Be OK

By The Healthy Minds Team

Well-Being Tips for Back-to-School in the Time of Covid-19.

Photo by Benjamin Manley on Unsplash

It’s late August and parents of school-aged children are preparing for a back to school like never before. You might be reliving the memories of the stress and challenges of the frankensteined emergency virtual schooling in spring, where patience often ran low and the complex combination of frustration, stress and guilt fueled a whole new type of anxiety. 

If you were able to work from home, you may have experienced pushing your child toward hours of screen time, fighting and getting on one another’s nerves, and the always-present challenges of finding a snack while muting your video call.

If you were not lucky enough to work remotely, you faced the stress of entering a world filled with health risks, the financial and emotional challenges of desperately finding childcare, and worrying about your child’s long term resilience.

A recent study found that both mothers (69%) and fathers (51%) of school-aged children have experienced at least one adverse health effect due to worry and stress from Coronavirus. These adverse health effects include trouble falling asleep, poor appetite or overeating, frequent stomach or headaches, difficulty controlling their temper and increasing drug and alcohol use.

As parents return to these circumstances, it’s natural to feel worried about revisiting these emotions. The different school situations present different challenges this time around as well: some kids will be in person with new rules and guidelines to follow, some will have a combination of in-person and virtual schooling, and some will return to a fully virtual set up (either with separate childcare or without).

What can parents do to combat this overwhelming stress? Here are some real, actionable tips and tools to support your (and ultimately, your child’s) well-being during this time:

  • Remember, we are resilient (both kids and adults): Broadly, the concept of “resilience” refers to the ability to adapt successfully to adversity, stress, and trauma. As humans, we all have this skill: we are more than just one event, or one circumstance. We are able to look back on our lives and realize in the rear-view that our experiences have made us stronger, taught us things, or led us on a new path. The key is to find ways to tap into this feeling in the present. Here is a really relevant meditation that you can do right now, to strengthen this skill. 
    • From the meditation: “A lot of suffering is actually our resistance to things we can’t control. When we let go of resistance, this opens up space for resilience.” Remember, this applies to kids too – they are resilient – they will make it through this moment in time.
  • Foster self-awareness and take control of your emotions: Things can build up if you are in a constant state of stress, and it’s easy to fall into a cycle of worry and rumination until you are overwhelmed. This guided practice can support emotional regulation by training your mind to tune into the moment and how you feel – before you “lose it.” 
    • From the meditation: “[It’s] kind of like looking outside to check the weather. We look to see if we’ve got clear skies or if a storm is coming. But here, it’s the weather of the mind.”
  • Stay motivated by reconnecting with your core values: When the world feels like it’s in chaos, it can be challenging to stay connected to your personal values and purpose. It’s easy for you to lose your focus and for your feelings of chaos to spill over to your school-age child. Kids can pick up on stress; getting back in touch with your guiding principles can help ground you before this happens. This meditation is specifically about reconnecting to your values during the challenges of Covid-19. 
  • Still feeling out of control? Do something
    • These resources from the CDC provide checklists for parents of school-aged kids for both virtual and in-person instruction this fall. 
    • You can also talk to your child’s teacher or counselor if you’re needing details – but remember, they’re also managing the stress of this moment. 
    • Or make a plan now for a reward at the end of the first month of this experiment – something for the whole family to look forward to like a special camping trip, a new board game or an upcoming movie night. Take action – for the better.

All of these practices and tips tie back to one main concept – this is a moment in time, and we will get past it. You can develop your inner strength to deal with challenges and setbacks, and even find inspiration to energize yourself and your kids during this time. You are not at the whim of your experiences, but on top of them. A few minutes of meditation a day – even one minute – can build up these skills and make a real difference in your well-being.

Remember, you (and your kids) are doing the best you can during an unprecedented moment in time. Check in on your emotions and theirs. Talk regularly about how things are going and adjust.

Don’t worry. They’re going to be OK. So are you.

COVID-19 Updates Healthy Minds Program App Parents Well-Being Tips