In the blog post, “Helping Kids with Back to School Anxiety,” we discussed specific ways to manage the stressful nuances of returning to the classroom (or lack thereof) — a topic that is becoming increasingly salient as millions of children are now entering into a school year fraught with uncertainty, instability and change. But beyond the just first day of school, there are additional anxieties and challenges that are unique to the concept of “e-learning.”
Amidst the numerous pandemic woes, those with youngsters have had to juggle the daunting task of balancing work life with family life, all under one roof. While traces of summer still remain, the first day of school for many is right around the corner – and it looks a little different this year. Instead of taking their children’s hand and walking them to the front steps of school, parents are being asked to walk them the short distance to the computer. As a society embarking on a “new normal,” we’re asking our educators to be computer connoisseurs, parents to double as teacher assistants while maintaining steady income, and our children to stay engaged over the screen.
Here are a few tips and tricks for navigating those challenges while setting the tone for e-learning.
Model Healthy Anxiety Management: As we know from Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) problems typically arise from the interaction between our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Oftentimes, this means that our thoughts influence how we feel and subsequently behave. If you as the parent are engaging in anxiety ridden dialogue and patterns, your child will learn these fear based assumptions and manifest similar predispositions. You are not only the role model for your child, but MODELING behavior and thought patterns for them. Empower yourself and your child by notating difficult circumstances you have overcome as a family, and channel those results into this “new normal.”
Be Informed! It’s important to have some practical resources to assist you during this time. Right now, Chicago Public Schools are providing internet at ZERO cost to those who qualify. To find more resources, you can visit this CPS website or call CPS at (773) 417-1060 to find out if you’re eligible and sign up. In addition to technical assistance, right now all CPS students – regardless of income, citizenship, or whether they receive SNAP are eligible for P-EBT benefits through the state for food assistance. You can apply for food stamps here.
Implement Manageable Routines: This is important in all facets of life, but is particularly important when work, school, and play are all taking place in the same space. Children are exceptionally receptive to routine.Creating a visible schedule that includes all members of the family can help you and your child transition from summertime. When school or work is over, put away the screens and make time to truly connect. Setting time aside to cook a meal together and more importantly EAT together away from distractions can be truly meaningful. Make popcorn and have a movie night – establish a routine that is meaningful to your family and stick to it.
Set Boundaries: Ever heard of that saying “you can’t fill from an empty cup?” Well despite the cliché, there’s some truth to that. Prioritize your mental health and communicate with your partner about your needs and potential burnout. Don’t make commitments to something unless it serves you and remember that declining an invitation isn’t “rude” if that’s what you need. Make time for yourself (even if that means getting up 15 minutes early for a cup of coffee to yourself) and if possible, sneak away for a date night!
Use What Ya Got: Utilizing support systems is crucial right now, particularly for those fearful of how to manage children’s school work amongst their own load. Many neighborhoods have Facebook groups that connect people in the community. Reach out to your local school and find out if there are tutors/part-time teachers available to assist during the school day. Communicate with your typical support system and stay connected with them to keep yourself accountable.
A new school year can bring new possibilities, and in 2020 we’ve all faced a few curve balls. Right now is a great time to model flexibility during unprecedented times for your child, paving the way for greater adaptability when faced with stress in the future. Back to school may look a little different this year, but it’s important to support ourselves and our families as we maneuver through these challenges.
– Malory Dahl, MA, CSAC