What comes at the end of the least-typical summer ever? You guessed it: the strangest and, for many, the most difficult start to a school year they can remember.
Parents are pulled in many directions—remaining focused on a full-time job that doesn’t look quite like it used to or looking for new opportunities while also working to keep their loved ones safe and healthy. On top of all that, managing the logistics of a new daily routine and kids’ distance learning from home (hello again, pre-algebra!) can leave you stressed and exhausted.
Meanwhile, contemplating sending kids back into the classroom, whether full-time or a day or two each week, where social distancing and other safety precautions can’t guarantee complete protection against the virus’s spread between children, teachers, and administrative staff is complicated, too.
But it’s not just grownups who’ve got complicated emotions about this school year. Your girl is also likely having major back-to-school feelings. Before the pandemic, school was where she spent most of her time. It’s a world she knows and is probably eager to get back to. She misses hanging with her friends, sharing snacks at recess, playing team sports, and so much more. Plus, let’s face it, a change of scenery might be nice after spending so much time at home.
Sadly though, even if she’s able to return to her classroom this fall, many students won’t have the option at all or won’t be back full-time or in the same way they’re used to (she’ll likely need to remain masked and socially distanced from friends and teachers). Most of the things she misses most about physically being in school simply aren’t completely safe right now. Add in the fear of contracting COVID-19 at school, and well, let’s just say there could be a lot going on in her head right now.
There are no easy solutions, and of course certain schooling strategies will work better for some families than others. But there is one fairly simple thing all families can do to help their kids through this tricky time: ask them how they’re feeling about school starting.
No matter what your girl’s answer is—and whether or not it matches how you’re feeling—hear her out and really listen to what she has to say. Perhaps her best friend is going to be attending school in person, but you’ve decided your family will be safer if your girl attends school virtually from home. Or perhaps she’s afraid of going back to the classroom, but you have to work outside the home and need to make sure she’s supervised during the day. Maybe your school district isn’t doing in-person learning at all, and you’ll just have to adjust to what’s offered.
Bottom line? These decisions, transitions, and adjustments will surely have a big influence on your life for the foreseeable future, but it’s the children who will be affected the most, even though it’s beyond their control.
So take a pause from the more grown-up conversations about logistics and local politics, and center some time on your girl’s state of mind. Knowing that her emotions are important to you and that her feelings are valid (even if you don’t agree) will go a long way to keep the peace during these difficult weeks. Not to mention open the door to bigger conversations about the decisions you’ve been making to keep your family safe.
A missed field trip or party can still be upsetting, even if it seems minor.