COVID-19 and the Fall school semester

By Brittany Farrar on 3rd Aug 2020

As has been the case for months, the positive COVID-19 case numbers are changing hourly. August marks the standard start of schools from kindergarten to college, and most parents are in the midst of making the decision to send their kids to school or have them learn virtually. There’s truly no right or wrong answer here. We’ve learned a little bit more about how to live with COVID-19: masking up to go to the grocery store, having drive-by birthday parties and graduation parades, and playing in our own backyards perhaps with friends in our quarantine bubbles. But school presents unknowns for parents, students and teachers; which brings up parental anxiety.

Parental anxiety is at its highest, with kids at home all the time, working from home – or going to work as an essential health care worker – financial security and family health at risk. Now, parents are making a difficult decision about how to best educate their children with as few interruptions as possible. Give yourself grace. We are still in very challenging, unprecedented times.

Talk with your family about what will work best for your individual situation. Learn what your school is offering; they seem to be slightly different, whether it be in-person, remote learning all semester or varying approach on a weekly basis for each kids’ needs. With that information in hand, discuss how to best approach everyone’s needs. If your family decides virtual learning is best, you can help with homework and even ask a grandparent to help oversee the class time. Maybe an older sibling could help, or you could ask the teacher or a tutor to help 1:1 after class time to address specific learning needs. The Child Mind Institute offers strategies for at-home learning for all grade levels and resources for you to use for remote learning.

If you make the decision to send your child to school, that is fine too! You can talk with them about mask-wearing, hand-washing and social distancing, all of which can be especially scary for young kids. Practice wearing your masks at home, even if your child is just sitting on the couch; it will help the first day not feel so scary.

As a parent, you should continue self-care, even if that is just waking up 10 minutes before your family does and drinking coffee in silence, journaling at night, practicing deep breathing for 60 seconds or gardening on the weekends. Keep offering, and eating, healthy meals and encouraging a reasonable bedtime for you and your kids. All those walks you were going on in March? Still important! Keep moving, get endorphins flowing and encourage your kids to talk to you on the walks.

If you, your kids or their friends need help, don’t hesitate to reach out to someone. It’s important to stay vigilant about mental health right now.

Brittany Farrar is the regional director of Middle Tennessee programs and Tennessee Specialized Crisis Services for Youth Villages. Crisis services are still available 24/7 if your child needs support. Youth Villages is available and prepared to assist your family during the time. Call 855-CRISIS-1 or text CONNECT to 741741. Visit Child Mind Institute for more resources. If you have thoughts of suicide, contact 1-800-273-TALK to be connected to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Related article: How to teach children responsibility

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