Back to school season has always been difficult. Between buying new supplies, adjusting your schedule, and ensuring that your child gets back to the swing of things, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and feel like there’s no possible way you can do it all. Especially this year with COVID-19, there’s a lot more to get used to. At a moment’s notice, you and your child may need to change your plans and switch from learning in person to remote. Although this may all seem like a lot, there are ways to manage your stress and mental health.
Check out these simple mental health tips for parents and students:
Flexibility is the Key
The only thing you can truly expect this year is well, uncertainty. Whether you’re a student, administrator, teacher, or a student, everyone is adapting to these unprecedented circumstances. There will be challenges and unexpected changes to come. Though so much may seem so out of your control, the one thing you can control is your reaction to events. Instead of getting frustrated and anxious, try to remember that this is only temporary. You and your child will get through this.
To make sure your child doesn’t get too stressed by these abrupt changes, take some time to talk to them about the situation. A little understanding can go a long way in reducing their sense of anxiety. Although they may not be making all the decisions, they can feel comforted by staying in the loop.
Communicate With Your Child’s Administrators and Teachers
In addition to talking to your child regularly, you should stay in touch with your child’s teacher and administrator so you know of any changes. Knowledge is one of the best ways to mitigate and combat anxiety. Ask your child’s teacher if there is a newsletter or email thread that they can loop you in on. On top of that, you should also regularly check the school’s website for updates. Though there’s no need to get obsessive, try to be attentive.
Remember That Your Mental Health is Important
Regardless of circumstance, being a parent requires a lot of patience. But especially in a pandemic, you may feel like you’re reaching your limit. It’s okay to not be okay. To avoid burning out, you should take some steps to protect your own physical and mental well-being. Here are a few things you can do:
- Exercise: Getting regular exercise can help you mitigate your stress and anxiety and reduce your risk of high blood pressure and Type 2 Diabetes.
- Pick Up A Hobby: To manage everything that’s going on, you may need a form of release that’s separate from your duties as a parent, partner, or employee. There are plenty of amusing hobbies you can pick up to distract you from the constant chaos. Try painting, sculpture, creative writing, or gardening. Whatever you choose, enjoy this time where you can tap into another side of yourself.
- Take Regular Walks: After you drop off your kids, take a walk at a local park or around the block to get some fresh air and clear your head. You can listen to a podcast or tune into a meditation app. Wherever you are, find a way to tap into your inner zen.
- Remind Yourself This Is Temporary: Though it may seem like the pandemic has been going on for a while, it’s not going to last forever. This is ultimately temporary and you and your child will move past this stronger than before.
- Talk To Other Parents: You’re going through something intense and frustrating. Though it’s great to get away from it all, you should also try to talk to other people who are going through the same thing to get their perspective. Join a parent group where you can discuss your frustrations and come up with constructive strategies to tackle any challenges. If your child has a specific learning difference or challenge (such as autism or ADHD), join a group that can address it.
- Keep A Journal: When things get tough, it can be helpful to have an outlet to let out all your frustration. Write in your journal everyday and use it as a space to let go of your emotions.
- Seek Help: In addition to these resources and leaning in on your friends and family, you should try online psychiatry. Through speaking with a counselor, you can come up with strategies on how to mitigate stress and anxiety and manage your mental health.
Encourage Your Child to Discuss Their Emotions
Children can have trouble comprehending their own emotions. Especially when it comes to things like fear or anxiety, it can be difficult for them to realize what’s actually wrong. Though they shouldn’t dwell in negativity, they shouldn’t ignore these emotions either. Tell them that there aren’t good or bad emotions. All feelings are valid and the best way to work through them is to address it out in the open.
Here are a few ways to get them to open up:
- Regularly check in with your child and ask them how they feel about the changes at school. Don’t assume any emotions. Instead of asking if they feel anxious or sad, just ask them something general and see where that leads.
- If your child expresses discomfort, tell them that it’s ultimately going to be okay. Let them express themselves but also try to remind them that they have your care and support.
- Talk to other parents and exchange strategies on how to talk to children during this difficult back to school period.
As a parent, it’s ultimately your responsibility to make sure that your kids are okay. Attending school during a pandemic is unlike any challenge we have dealt with before. There’s so much we all have to get used to — frequent testing, masking, and adjusting our schedules at a moment’s notice. But with your guidance, your child will be okay. Though you want what’s best for your child, remember to check in with yourself and do what you need to do to stay on top of your own mental health.
Salman Zafar is an ecopreneur, consultant, advisor, speaker and journalist with expertise in waste management, waste-to-energy, renewable energy, environment protection, conservation and sustainable development. His geographical areas of focus include Asia, Middle East, Africa and Europe. Salman is the Founder of EcoMENA, a popular voluntary organization based in Qatar. He is also the Founder and CEO of BioEnergy Consult, a reputed consulting firm active in biomass, waste-to-energy and waste management segments.
Salman is a professional environmental writer with more than 350 popular articles to his credit. He is proactively engaged in creating mass environmental awareness in different parts of the world.
Salman Zafar can be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org