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Preparing for Back to School: Parents Need for Self-Care

It is getting to be that time of the year again, but prepping for school to start looks drastically different this time. Instead of making sure your kid has shiny new pens and markers, you may be fretting about adequate face coverings, hand sanitizer, your decisions regarding whether to send them back or not, and Internet speed/bandwidth. Thoughts have likely been swirling in your head and you may feel like your own brain bandwidth can’t handle much more activity. You worry about your kids’ safety. They miss their friends. You don’t want them to be behind. You need to work and don’t feel equipped to teach. You want your old normal back. Pause. Breathe. And recognize that you are doing the best you can in this moment with the resources and energy that you have.

A Shared Burden

We may have different boats and resources, but we are all in the same storm, struggling in our own way. Raising a family is no easy feat under normal circumstances: juggling schedules, work, family commitments, self-care, etc. However, if your children are staying home this Fall or you assume that schools will shut down eventually…you may feel like you’re preparing for a second apocalypse. How will you continue to work, be a parent, manage life during a pandemic, AND perhaps learn a new profession, say, how to be a home-school teacher? That is too much to ask of anyone. You are surviving as best you can and that, my friend, is commendable. It’s ok if you throw in the towel some days and let your kids miss some Zoom meetings when your Internet is spotty. Kids can be whiny and distractable. You don’t have control of everything and that’s ok. You likely didn’t receive training on how to home-school your kids or to have an effective learning environment at home and that’s ok.

Try to remember that
  • Your concerns are valid
  • Your emotional reaction (stress, anger, fear, frustration, sadness) is valid
  • No one was prepared for this. No one.
  • Your kids are not going to be permanently damaged from how you are managing life during a pandemic.
  • You don’t have to pretend to be happy
  • Wanting a break/time away from your kids doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent and it doesn’t mean you don’t love them

Self-Care Tips

Depending on your individual situation, it may seem like taking care of yourself has fallen off of your radar…especially if you are home with your kids most of the day. You may feel your sanity slipping. If you don’t prioritize your self-care, your body may force you too. It may not be surprising that adults with kids under 18 are experiencing increased stress. Chronic stress raises cortisol levels and makes you more susceptible to getting sick. So! During a pandemic especially, self-care is a must.

Here are some self-care tips:
  • Plan for the day as best as you can the night before so you aren’t feeling rushed.
  • Expect kids not to want to sit in front of the computer all day. It’s hard for adults too! Allow breaks as needed and don’t beat yourself up for it.
  • Ask for help and ALLOW yourself to be helped. This may look like your parents watching your kids for an hour or two so you can take a walk, long bath, or read a book.
  • Connect with your partner and friends. Make it a priority. Isolation fuels stress.

Letting Go of Self-Judgment

It’s natural to compare yourself to other people and make assumptions about how well other people are handling schooling from home. Just look at that lovely post on Instagram of another parent’s set up for their three children with a beautiful desk for each, complete with potted plants, and a device for each to complete their school work! All sunshine and rainbows on the Internet. Life isn’t picture perfect. And what is on the Internet doesn’t represent reality. It’s ok if you have to share devices with your kids. It’s ok to ask the schools for help. And remember, most parents don’t post their children’s tantrum faces (or their own) on the Internet or the aftermath involving strewn objects around the playroom.

Try to let go of any self-critical thoughts you have about
  • Being overwhelmed
  • Being annoyed with your kids
  • Feeling unsupported
  • Worrying that other parents are handling the situation “better”
  • Needing breaks

Furthermore, if you choose to keep your kids home? That’s ok. That’s your choice. If you think sending your kids to school with the appropriate safety measures works best for your family? That’s ok. That’s your choice. And what’s more, remember that other people don’t have to agree with your choices because other people aren’t you and they aren’t living your life. You can’t control what other people may or may not think about you. You need to do what’s right for you.

Ongoing Help

We are aware the Zoom-fatigue and online meeting fatigue exist. However, taking some time to get honest with yourself about how you’re feeling, what you’re doing about it/how you’re taking care of yourself is well worth the effort. Sometimes even the smallest of changes can make stress just a little more bearable. If things get overwhelming, you can schedule a session with an Angelus therapist today to start to prioritize your self-care and process your reactions to your kids heading back to school (in whatever way) during a pandemic. We are here for you. There is support available. And since we know that all time is limited right now and child care can be minimal and social distancing is king, all of our sessions are being done virtually on our telehealth platform. Meaning that if you can’t get away from the house for an hour for a therapy session, that’s ok. Lock yourself in your room, closet, or garage and we can meet where it is convenient for you.

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