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Usually, a new school year is filled with a mix of excitement for reconnecting with friends and getting a little more structure in our lives and disappointment that summer flew by so fast.
Now I’m not sure what to feel. I find myself struggling with desperately wanting things to go back to “normal” and adjusting to a new way of doing and being. Back to school is hitting hard this year.
For those of you who are entering the school system for the first time, I can only imagine the feelings you are having. Some of you may be a bit relieved by the extra time at home with your kindergartener. Others may be disappointed by not getting that first day of school and meet the teacher in-person experience. And some may be struggling with how to manage online education, work and the needs of younger siblings.
How do you prepare? How do you manage? How do you build excitement for something that isn’t what you’d hoped for?
Our district is starting with fully remote learning. Last Spring it was a disaster—so many things went wrong. I’m hoping the organization and delivery systems for my child’s education have improved, but truthfully, I’m preparing for another challenging experience.
That’s what I’m feeling behind the scenes. What I’m actually doing is putting on my big girl pants and sucking it up.
I’m trying to see things in a more positive light through research and preparation. I’m trying to help my kiddo feel less overwhelmed by the prospect of another online learning experience and being away from her friends by creating engagement plans. I’m trying to figure out how I can actively support her while also working from home.
"How do you build excitement for something that isn’t what you’d hoped for?"
I’m lucky though. She’s old enough and motivated enough to supervise herself. I have so much empathy for those of you with young children who are working from home and/or now supervising a school day—for those of you who were excited about the prospect of Kindergarten and for those of you who were just excited to be getting a break during the day.
This will continue to be an interesting season of life. While this situation is completely out of our control, how we respond to it isn’t. I’m hoping these tips will help you continue to get through it.
Set realistic expectations. This will be messy. Some days will be great and others, not so much. Think about your home life and the personalities of those who live there. Each of you will have different needs. You’re not going to meet them all. As a parent that can feel like failure. And it will be ok. Your kids will bounce back and learn an important lesson about patience and self-reliance. With a little forethought and preparation, you can also help predict what kinds of situations create the boiling points that cause meltdowns. When we understand those triggers, we can develop some compassion and with compassion often comes a little more patience.
Have honest conversations with the other people that rely on you:
Whether it’s your boss, spouse/partner or children, talk about your situation to try to get on the same page. Don’t we all feel better when we feel understood and are pulling in the same direction? Acknowledge there will be difficulties, that you will always work hard to do your best (and sometimes that means attending to something that doesn’t feel important to others). Perhaps you can create a daily or weekly list of “must-be-dones” and delegate some of the items. That way the most important things won’t fall through the cracks.
Carve out some individual space: Not everyone has the luxury of living in a large home where there is abundant space to spread out. Even in smaller spaces, we can create those much-needed respites. For kids, it might be a blanket fort, or a large shipping box turned upside down with windows cut into it. For adults, it might be a long shower or bath or time-outs in your room. You can place a “red light” made out of construction paper on the door to let others know this is your do-not-disturb time.
As for workspace, perhaps you can create set places in your home for each individual to work. It could even be at the same table. You can set up their school supplies and barriers created out of poster board if that helps with concentration. Kids will have fun decorating their space.
Create some excitement for the new year: Whether it’s buying new (or repurposing old) school supplies, creating their space, getting a few new cool shirts for school or planning the lunch menu for the month, a little preparation can go a long way in creating some normalcy and demonstrate that there actually is something to look forward to.
Plan some social engagement, fun and outdoor time: We are social creatures. We need interaction for so many reasons—for kids, those reasons include developing vital social and emotional skills that can only be met by interaction with peers. Determine your threshold for in-person engagement, plan some things everyone can look forward to and please remember to follow your area’s mandates. Make sure you try to get outside a few minutes every day. Fresh air does wonders. And don’t forget the fun! Living, working and playing with the same people every day can be challenging, but if we can remember to get silly every once in a while, it sure helps to let out some steam!
Good luck! You’ve got this!
Be kind to yourselves and others.
Until next time,