22 Sep Back to Routine. Hardly….
And so begins another school year. In previous years, it would bring a sigh of relief to busy parents looking for a return to routine after an active summer. They would take the annual first day of school picture and hug their children before sending them off for the first day of school.
Not this year. In pre-pandemic times, children would be looking forward to recess, excited to see their friends again, catching up on their summer adventures during a ride on the school bus. There would be singing at circle time on the rug, cool water at the drinking fountain, playing games in the gym.
They looked forward to special occasions, like blowing out the candles and shared birthday treats. High schoolers looked forward to extra-curricular activities and field trips. Now they are no longer rotating through classes or sharing a set of class books. Band and music classes are wrong on so many levels now.
Kids and parents will be suffering from anxiety. Because of the extended break this year, kids have become accustomed to spending more time around their families. While this bodes well for family bonding, sometimes there can be too much of a good thing. Relationships thrive when there is togetherness, then time alone for reflection, followed by reconnecting to share the experience.
With all the time being shared time, with little opportunity for breaks from each other, this can create a tension overload. Tempers can become short, and emotional reactions can quickly peak. Your happy toddler can go from zero to ten quickly and have a monumental meltdown. Your teen is slamming a lot more doors, their eye rolling is only interrupted by the need to focus on their cellphones. Parents can also experience increased anxiety.
After holding it together for the family unit since last spring, whether it is preschoolers going off to their first classroom, or college kids leaving home for the first time, separation anxiety can be more difficult than it should be for both kids and parents.
Parents and caregivers must also realize the toll these uncertainties and new routines have taken on our own mindsets and relationships. Being responsible for continuing a somewhat usual family life has been an ongoing challenge.
Most have discovered creative solutions to situations that were not imagined pre-pandemic. Interpreting the rules of distancing, social bubbles, wearing or not wearing masks and gloves, etc. has become a hotbed of conflict among friends as well as within families, as each decides on what the appropriate practices are for them. Courtesy and respect for the differences of opinions is crucial, the only common thread that we can all agree on for now is uncertainty. We must put out energies into keeping our stress levels manageable, so we can reasonably negotiate whatever comes next.
As adults, we must set the example of maintaining control of our situation. Relaxing our usual strict standards until things stabilize is a good first step in keeping the stress levels reduced. Reach out to others and share ideas and strategies to get you through the difficult times. You will find that many of your fears and uncertainties are shared by others in your circle.
With the lifting of some restrictions of the pandemic state, many current and new services for mental health are being introduced in the community as well as in many workplaces. There are services available to help you develop coping strategies for managing feelings of loss of control, stress, depression, parenting skills, and other difficulties you may be experiencing.
There are also programs within some schools and community centres to help your kids of all ages navigate the changing situations that they are experiencing socially and in school. Have a chat with your occupational therapist or other healthcare providers to explore the variety of services available. They will be able to direct you to the programs that will best serve your needs. Many programs are offered virtually online as well as in person, making them readily accessible.
Please be kind to the teachers and staff at the schools. They too are unsettled in their roles and are doing their best in unfamiliar territory.
Wishing your kids a safe and enriching school experience, full of new opportunities and discoveries.
Feel free to reach out if you are experiencing any emotional or mental distress.