As I sit here with my planner open and three different school schedules in front of me, I am struck by a feeling both familiar and new. I’m always a little overwhelmed at this time of year. I, like my children, am not great at transitions. Also, I love summer and hate the routine of school. I know. That’s a little crazy for a mom, right? Most people crave the order that comes from a return to school, but I’ll take long, meandering summer days anytime, even when I have to work right through them. Anyway, what I’m saying is the feeling of “Sunday Night anxiety” is pretty familiar to me this time of year. What is new is the feeling that I have no idea what I am in for.
Sure, every year is a bit different so there is always some unknown about a new school year. But I can honestly say that I have not experienced this level of cluelessness since my almost 18- year-old was entering kindergarten. The schools all have a plan, but not one of them has ever executed said plan before now. In a sense, this whole thing is a crapshoot and I think we, and our kids, might be the dice So, how am I coping? What tools am I utilizing to keep myself somewhat sane?
6 things that help to keep the anxiety in check.
- Taking in ALL the information: In the spring and even early summer I was preaching about not to take in more information than necessary at any given time. Too many changes to keep up with could lead to learning more and feeling less confident in what you know. Now, that the day to return is upon us knowing more is necessary. Read the school plans. Watch the school videos. Ask around for ideas. Knowing what is next can help make everyone feel prepared, even if what’s next doesn’t last forever.
- Stop pretending. Last spring, I had a very laissez faire attitude toward remote schooling and working from home. If we survived the spring with our mental health intact, I called it a win. I didn’t care about grades or even schedules. If my kids woke up and did anything other than play Fortnite, I was happy. My bar for “success” if very low. I can’t do that anymore. We all have shifted from crisis survival mode to a what is our new normal. We aren’t going back, but we also can’t stay stuck either. The quicker we accept what is coming (even if it only lasts a month) the better off we all are. To that end…
- Put together ALL the structures I’ve mapped out the classrooms to ensure proper distancing if my kid is returning. I’ve mapped out the house classroom to ensure proper workflow if my kid is staying home. (Oh, yes, I have both). I’ve learned their new schedules so that I can make my work fit in around their school days. Ideal? Not a chance. But fro parents and kids alike, having the structure for the days and weeks ahead makes it all feel more within our control. Being honest about what our roles are in it helps as well. Stop living so moment to moment and build whatever the scaffolding needs to be for this new idea of school.
- Stop asking for opinions This spring and even into summer, I was taking the hive mind approach to this new world. I asked my peers, my colleagues, heck, sometimes even total strangers (Don’t judge me, I needed connection and so did the cashier at Target!) what they thought about nearly everything. Do we wear a mask to get the mail? Are you grocery shopping or ordering delivery? How about homeschool? Are you sending your kids back? At first there was likely some comfort in knowing other people’s plans. It can help us feel less alone. Eventually, too many opinions can render us me incapable of making any decisions. So…
- Take some time to reflect on what is important to you Sometimes this may necessitate meditative reflection. Other times it might looks like conversations with your partner or kids, or both. No matter how you do it, take some time to reset your expectations for this unprecedented school year. I am remaining what I’ve dubbed “flexibly planned”. There is room for change, but also predictable structures in place that honor what our family values which includes the desire to stand in support of our fellow neighbors and friends.
- Continue to take care of myself Let me be clear, you can’t do any of numbers 1-5 if you’re not eating well, sleeping well and moving your body. Trust me, this doesn’t mean I don’t have an occasional margarita or scoop of Haagen Daaz. It does mean I don’t have seven margaritas or ice cream every night. Going back to the shift out of crisis mode, we can’t eat or drink our way out of the uncomfortable feelings of this season. It is time to stop trying. If you read nothing else here, remember this: if you don’t take care of yourself first (whatever that looks like for you) you will not be able to take care of anyone else for very long.
So, put on your Oxygen mask first mama. Then buckle up because this is about to be quite a ride!
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.