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Back To School Stress As A Parent

It’s that time when the kids are going back to school, but this year it’s different. The back to school stress is on a whole other level this time around. It is different because they just lived through history and are still living through it. COVID hit hard and is still coming at us full force and it has shattered their world. Our kids will never be the same and that is just what it is. My son was in kindergarten when the pandemic happened. The schools shut down a long with the rest of the world. Life just stopped that experience we had growing up of going to school every day. That experience was robbed from him and we had to pivot and adjust. As an adult it sucks, but we can figure it out, but for them, it was chaos, confusing, and downright terrifying.

We did our best to explain to him why the school was closed and he could only see his teacher and friends in tiny little boxes on a screen. When they finally opened up the schools, they did it in cohorts when it was part in school and part in remote learning. Still, it was difficult going into the 1st grade having to wear masks and going through random testing. I give a lot of credit to the school principal, that man worked overtime to get those kids in the building as much as possible. One week it was open and the next they were shut down for 10 days due to COVID. It took a toll on our kids no matter what age or grade. Life as we knew it would never be the same.

I don’t know what the future holds, but right now it’s masks and testing at school. No matter what we do as parents they will never have those memories we did growing up. They will have memories of social distancing, masks, remote learning and parents screaming to wash their hands after they touch anything. The fear of COVID has changed us all, but especially our children.

I can talk about this for days, so moving on to back to school stress. Well, they are not the same it’s not just about the school supplies, who the teachers are, and back-to-school clothes. All of that is still there, but now there is more. Filling health forms every day, making sure they have a mask, what will they be doing in school. Can they go out for recess and play?  Do they have to stand 3-6 feet apart? Will they be able to socialize with other kids the way they use to?

Some of the answers for me at the moment are still unknown. I have watched my son as well as many other kids struggle socially and emotionally due to the pandemic. My son is terrified to get COVID to the point that he will not take off his mask to eat. He lifts it as little as possible only to eat and never takes it off when he is in school. It has become the norm for him. It breaks my heart to see him have to live through this in constant fear over COVID, but this is where we are. The only thing I can do is be as honest as possible and reassure him that it is going to be OK.

As a parent, I know every parent is worried. It comes with the territory, but for your children to be worried only makes it worse. I believe a kid should be able to be a kid. Unfortunately, that is not the case at the moment because they are a part of a crisis that has no limits. Normally the back-to-school stresses fall mainly on the parents, but this time it falls on the kids too. Many parents opted to do remote learning out of fear and now it’s time for them to go back to in-person learning. So now not only are you stressed your kids are stressed. Even the kids that did do in-person struggled because of all the mandates.

Things Your Kids Are Stressing Over

Whether you realize it or not your kids are having that back-to-school stress. What they are stressing over can vary depending on the kid. Regardless of that, we need to be aware and remember that school wasn’t a cakewalk and we all had our struggles. Even the popular kids struggled we all know that now as adults. So remember to have some empathy for them. Here are is what your kids back to school stress may be.

A girl sitting at a lunch table by herself. There is a group of kids behind her at another lunch table.

Socializing

Having or being able to socialize is back-to-school stress that every kid goes through. Socializing is a huge part of going to school. Being able to make friends and socialize is one of the best parts of it. It teaches them how to make friends and talk to others with ease. It teaches them to problem solve and work as a team. So them not being able to socialize normally is a big concern. You never want them to feel left out or alone, but that is how they feel especially the younger ones. The way you can help them is by taking them to parks and letting them play with other kids. Stand back and don’t hover over them with a bottle of hand sanitizer at the ready every time they touch something.

Having or being able to socialize is back-to-school stress that every kid goes through. Try setting up some rules before you go to the playground about not putting their finger in their mouth. You can also make it a point to call them over for sip of water and some hand sanitizer. This way you are able to make hand sanitizing a habit while they are able to re-develop social skills with other kids.

Bullying

This is a big problem these days so I feel the need to say emphasize that bullying these days has gotten out of hand. It doesn’t just happen at school and they get a break when they come home. Oh, not technology has opened a whole new doorway for bullies to reach their victims 24 hours a day. So keep in mind that if your kid has a bully that can definitely be stressing them out. Talk to them and work with the school to make sure it is stopped. It is our job to protect them so never feel like you should let them figure it out for themselves. If you don’t fight for them no one will not even themselves.

Education

The whole point of school is to get an education. Another thing that is going to stress them out is not being able to keep up with the school work and assignments. Remote learning for over a year was no picnic for anyone. I don’t know about you, but I am not a teacher. Besides even if you are a teacher you had to do remote learning with your own students. I don’t know a single teacher that was able to teach a class and help their kids with remote learning. It was unchartered waters for everyone.

OMG the meltdowns over math that happened in my house, I was very fortunate because my mother was a teacher and was able to help my son. Don’t get me wrong if we had one meltdown a day, we were counting our blessings.

It was rough, to say the least. Some kids might have fallen behind because remote learning is not the same as when they are in person. Half the time the poor teachers are telling them to mute or unmute themselves when remote learning. At home there are a million distractions so paying attention as they did in a structured classroom was just not an option. I will say this those teachers are absolute angels for the efforts they put in to teach our kids.

If they did fall behind this can be a big stress for them. The self-doubt, frustration, and worry about not being smart can take a toll on their self-esteem and self-worth real quick. There are some things you can do to help them. Talk to the teacher and arrange some one on one time for them so the teacher can help them. You can also look for a tutor to help them catch up. You yourself can take the time to sit with them and learn together. No matter what you do be understanding and kind. They already feel like a failure they don’t need you piling on with criticism.

A group of kids wearing masks. 3 are holding books and one is holding a basketball

After school clubs and sports

I don’t know what this year holds, but I know that many kids enjoy being a part of school sports and clubs. It’s a way for them to be involved with a team and learn important team-building skills. They are concerned that the safety measures put in place won’t allow for these activities that a lot of them want. I am hoping that one day our kids can get back to cheering on the football, baseball, basketball teams in the stands. I also hope that the yearbook committee, marching band, debate team can get back to meeting again.

You don’t realize how important they are to your kid until they don’t have it anymore. It changes them because there is nothing to engage them, but homework, video game, and the TV. These after-school activities got them away from all of that. Will it happen this year I have no idea, but I do have some suggestions to help. You can drive them to meet up at a park to do these activities with a group of friends.

You can also take the time to get involved yourself. Examples of this would be playing chess or holding a debate at home. If they are into sports go outside and threw the ball around and play a baseball game or touch football with the whole family. The point is there is always a way around it. If the schools aren’t going to do it because of mandates then you as a parent can take that extra step.

Final Thoughts on Back To School Stresses

The emotional aspect of this is learning to deal with your emotions. I am a grown adult and I still struggle with my emotions. Kids going back to school can struggle with how to control their emotions. Not being able to express themselves can be difficult. I have watched my son second guess himself, have meltdowns and struggle with expressing his emotions. As parents, we have to work with them.

I know that sometimes it can be hard to keep your cool because we are all stressed. I am no exception. So, when those moments happen take a step back and listen to your kids because in the middle of that meltdown there is something deeper, they are trying to tell you. You can check out How To Handle The Meltdown to learn more about it. If you listen long enough it will come out and if you aren’t paying attention, you can miss it. What I have discovered is that our kids need a lot of reassurance in such an uncertain world. It is up to us to give it to them.

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