(The following blog was written by our very own Ben Jessen and was originally published on his fantastic website, Obvious Parenting.)
We all agree that the start of the 2020/2021 school year is going to be different. From trying to have our children social distance and wear masks at school, to remote learning, we are all going to have to work with these changes made because of the COVID pandemic. Some of these changes made within the schools to decrease the spread of COVID could stay, while other changes will most likely be short-term. No matter how long these changes last, as a family we are going to need to adapt to them without placing more stress on our children than necessary. Here are some useful tips to help our children J.U.M.P. into the new school year.
Getting “all fired up” because things are going to be different this school year will not help the situation. This doesn’t mean your voice shouldn’t be heard, but if your school district has already made a decision, just relax and go with the flow. Show your kids that fighting against the current is a waste of energy. Show them that it is best to have an open mind and faith that the school decisions were made with the best intentions.
Picture your family floating down a calm river, each of you in their own tube. Even if you have never been down this particular river you can still relax and enjoy what uniqueness it has to offer. If you panic and try to fight the current, your kids will do the same, placing them in a state of fear and unrest. Just hold on to each other, and enjoy the ride into this new school year.
Unlearn how you think learning should go
We all have a picture in our mind of how our children will learn the best. It often is in a setting similar to the one we experienced as kids. A school full of happy children running around, or trying to sit still in class, being taught by caring teachers. This may, in fact, be the way it will go for some students, but for others, the picture could be quite different. To be honest, we won’t know how it will go until school starts and is in session for a few weeks.
I have personal experience unlearning how I thought my boys should be taught. They both have been educated in many different settings and have turned out to be well- adjusted, self-motivated, and adaptable learners (in my humble opinion). Their education has included a public elementary school, homeschooling, a hybrid model in middle school, and currently a public high school. From experience, I have found that most children and teenagers can enjoy learning in many types of settings. A key to successful education is to have fun and place fewer expectations and pressures on your children. As parents, not only do we need to continue being teachers of life, but more importantly continue being cheerleaders.
Make the best out of the situation
As parents, we can either go into this school year with an attitude of frustration or an attitude of gratitude. I am not saying we won’t experience times of frustration with how things will go this school year, but allowing that sense of frustration to overwhelm our family is not healthy or productive. We should be grateful that we have educators (including ourselves) who have our children’s best interest in mind. We have to let go of assumptions and conspiracy theories and support each other for the sake of our children.
Be grateful to have an educational system to help support your children’s development. Be grateful for all the hard work your teachers have done to adapt to these changing times. Be grateful that these changes are to protect the health and well-being of not only the teachers and staff but our families as well. Be grateful for less overall illness this year because of the protocols set in place.
During times of uncertainty, our job as parents is to provide stability for the family. If the parental foundation is shaky, so will be our children’s confidence in handling these changing times. Be there for your kids, not only physically but mentally. Show them strength and courage by not letting all the negativity, fear, and polarization get to you. Remember time is one of the most precious gifts you can give your children. Spend time with them and act like a kid yourself. Spend time truly listening to them. Continue to support their physical health with wholesome family cooking, opportunities to exercise, and just being present in the moment. This all creates stability. If you do not feel stable yourself, reach out to friends, family, neighbors, teachers, or counselors to help support you. You are not alone, we are all in this together, building a stronger community through adversity.
Your Friendly pediatric provider,