Making Peace With The New School Year

“The root of suffering is resisting the certainty that no matter what the circumstances, uncertainty is all we truly have.” Pema Chodron

Sometimes uncertainly feels more overwhelming than at other times. This might be one of those times, as we are faced with sending our kids back to school without a solution to Covid 19.

We face this after a long spring of navigating the tensions of sheltering-in-place family life, on-line schooling (or not, many kids have not fully engaged in on-line schooling), rising unemployment, grief of all things Covid19, and a divided America, politically, economically, and socially.

How can we deal with our emotions (fear? anger?) with all that is going on, specifically around what we are feeling about sending our children back to school.

Start by asking yourself, what are the things I can do, to build my capacity to stay calm, in the storm of uncertainty? Here are 5 tips for staying calm in the storm of uncertainty.

1. Self-care- pay attention to your sleep, nourishment, hydration, and move that body, as a base line for wellness. Turn off the social media and the news for media breaks! Self-care makes it easier for us stay calm, despite the storm.

2. Set up routines and rituals in your family life as something you can count on, even if is JUST YOU that is doing this routine/ritual! (Remember, the only person’s behavior you can manage, is your OWN!) Routines and rituals help us experience life more calmly.

a. Consider daily exercise, family mealtime, daily prayer or silence, a good night tea, a good morning positive intention, a noon wellness break:3 deep breaths with a positive self-message, tailored for you.

3. Call your local school district and find out what your district is doing to meet the health and safety requirements for students and teachers. (Each school is required to have a plan in place by July 17). Finding out the facts can help us feel calmer.

a. Ask questions about risk mitigation: how are they screening children so that they can be sent home if they might be sick? How are they implementing hand washing? How are they sanitizing surfaces? How will cafeteria/lunch time change? What about gym/music/art? What about recess? What are the options for part time or full time online learning in your district What is the plan to reduce a “super-spreader” event?

b. Find out if your district will be changing on-line learning from the way it went during March-June 2020.

4. Manage your own fear about back to school so your child can navigate their own emotions about back to school. Using skills to manage anxiety helps us feel calmer.

a. 5 Wellness Ideas for you to help manage anxiety: 1. Use Square Breathing: Inhale deeply through the nose, hold for a count of 5 at the top, and then long exhalation out through the mouth (like you are blowing out a candle)and then hold for a count of 5 again. Try this for 5 minutes. Use this breath as a mini meditation. 2. Pick 5 songs that make you smile. This is the start of your Wellness Music List for your phone. Listen as needed. 3. Pick a guided meditation from #InsightTimer that resonates with your need right now. Perhaps listen to the one you are drawn to, every day as part of a new noon wellness break. I love the guided meditations by Sarah Blondin. 4. Take a social media/news break. Remember we are human beings not human doings. Our brains are used to constant engagement. It's okay to disconnect. It may not be easy. What might you do instead? Step outside and look up to the sky. Create. Read. Write. Pray. Connect with a friend. Walk. Dance. Bathe. 5. The first time you gaze in the mirror after waking up, whisper to yourself, "I love you. You are good enough. You always have been". Then give yourself a bear hug. You deserve it.

5. Work with your child’s emotions about back to school. If your child is anxious about returning to school, VALIDATE their emotions FIRST. “You seem sad/worried about returning to school. I get it. It is a big change from the spring and things won’t be the same. Let’s figure out how to help you with your sadness/worry.” Helping your child feel calmer can help the whole family feel calmer.

a. Talk about the specifics: is it about seeing a bully again? Are they afraid to leave you because of family life being unsettled? Tell them your best guess and see if that inspires them to talk.

b. Take your child to his school before it starts to help them feel more comfortable.

c. Back to school will require new routines, earlier to bed. Talk about it. Figure out the obstacles to the new routines and address and begin to address them now.

d. Consider your child’s needs social-emotional, physical, learning

i. Physical: speak to your child’s doctor whether your child’s condition leaves them at greater risk for contracting Covid-19.

ii. Emotional: Considered seeking telehealth mental health services for your child to help them prepare for the return. Check out zencare.co or Psychology Today for find a good fit therapist.

iii. Speak to the head of your special ed department about what will change regarding your child’s Individual Education Plan or 504.

6. Practice mask wearing and have your child try different types of masks to find out which mask works best for your child. As they practice mask wearing it at home they will be more used to wearing a mask for back to school.

If you have a choice as to whether to send your child back to school, call your superintendent, find out about protocol for home schooling, then use the questions below as an evaluation tool for your family:

· How has your experience of on-line school been with your child/children this past spring?

· How has on-line schooling affected your relationship with your child?

· How has on-line schooling affected your relationship with your partner?

· Based on the prevalence of Covid-19 at the time of your decision, the daily new cases at the time of your decision, and considering what your district is doing for risk reduction, what is your child’s ability to take personal responsibility for following guidelines?

· What are the risks at home- is there someone living in your home is considered high risk of serious consequences with covid-19?

· What is your level of risk aversion?

· What are the mental health considerations for you and your children if they stay home?

· Make peace with your decision.

When we find acceptance for uncertainty, and build on the matters we can count on,starting with Self,we can make difficult and uncertain situations more tolerable, and stay calmer in the storm of uncertainty. When we do better, so do o

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