Tag Archives: remote learning

Schools Out…Forever?


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

Helping Kids with Back to School Anxiety


After last spring’s turbulent ending to the school year, and a similarly unpredictable summer, it is now time to gear up for the start of another academic year. In keeping with the theme of 2020, things are not going to be the same—for students, teacher or parents. Some kids are dubiously starting a new phase of “e-learning”, others are returning to the classroom and still others are doing a hybrid of both. Parents are caregivers must adjust their own schedules to accommodate these changes—all of which combine to add an extra layer to an already anxiety-provoking time of year. The first step is recognizing whether your child might be experiencing these worries. 

Common signs of school-related anxiety in children include: 
  • repeatedly asking for reassurance about the same questions, even if they have already been answered. For instance, “what if my friends decide they don’t like me?” or “what if the teacher is mean?” 
  • complaints of physical symptoms when no illness is present, such as stomachaches and headaches
  • changes in sleeping and eating habits 
  • avoidance or reluctance to engage in discussions related to school 

While anxiety and stress are inevitable, they don’t need to cause suffering. Read on to learn the ABCs of helping everyone in your household navigate this transition.

  • Anticipate and acknowledge anxieties: instead of waiting for anxieties to bubble up the night before the first day of school, get ahead of the game by predicting potential challenges in advance. For instance, children who experience separation anxiety or have difficulty adjusting to changes in routine can be expected to find the transition to a new year more stressful. Avoiding discussion about these topics may feel like you are protecting your child from undue stress, but chances are that he or she is already thinking about them on some level. Facilitating a conversation will a neutral question such as “do you know who will be in your class this year?” will help children process and familiarize themselves to the anxieties of these uncertain situations.
  • Bprepared practiced. So far, 2020 has cautioned us against developing a false sense of security by telling ourselves that we are “prepared”. So, instead of issuing that challenge to the universe, focus instead on the more accurate actions of being “practiced”, “planned” or “purposeful”. The idea here is to do a “dry run” of the school day routine in advance, whether that means walking/driving to school, waking up early to log on to the computer or role-playing conversations. Ask your child what parts of the day he or she is most nervous about and go from there.  
  • Choose consistency. The transition from summer to a more structured schedule can cause anxiety in itself. You can help your child by shifting into the new schedule a week or so in advance of school to help them become acclimated to the change. This is also a good time to teach children how to develop their own routine by setting aside time each night for reading, journaling and getting prepared for the following day. 
While back to school anxieties are common, it should not consistently interfere with your child’s day to day life or cause excessive distress. If your child seems to be struggling despite your support, consider seeking out the help of a guidance counselors or making an appointment with a mental health professional to further ensure a successful start to the school year.

– Carolyn Moriarty, LPC