My name is Lauren and I’m not only the owner of Inspire Counseling Center, but I’m a local mom with kids in the Northbrook Public School District. I can tell you personally, the balance and stress of all the changes we’ve faced during this pandemic is truly overwhelming and at times very humbling. Now, as we face the new school year, which will be unlike any before in our lifetime, it is no easy feat.
In an effort to serve the community (and myself!), I polled the entire staff at Inspire for their best advice for parents and kids with the stress of the upcoming school year. I’d like to share with you now.
Take it One Day at a Time
Advice is changing everyday. Plans are changing moment to moment. News and reports are changing every minute. Do your best to plan for the future, but be flexible. Remind yourself that you’re not in control, you can’t be, but you will do your best.
While you’re taking it “one day at a time” remember your kids are watching. You showing them how to stay flexible and able to pivot, is a life skill that will serve them and yourself.
Take breaks from Social Media
Enough said. While social media can be a fun place to zone out or connect with other friends and local parents, it also can be overwhelming and upsetting. Put your phone or computer away, and ground yourself by looking out the window, spend time with people in your home. Just give yourself a break.
No Mom/Dad Shaming
We are all in this together. Seriously. Everyone is doing the best they can. Everyone has their own unique experiences, history, health situations and needs. If we criticize and attack each other, there is nothing to gain. we need to support each other and honor our differences and all move toward keeping our friends, family and community safe.
Recognize what’s in your control vs. out of your control
Unfortunately, a lot is stacked in the deck of “out of your control” on this one. Try making a list of what is in your control (how much time you spend on social media, how much news you choose to watch, eating healthy, getting good sleep, being kind to your kids and family) versus what is out of your control (um, pretty much all the rest).
Remind yourself (and family), this too shall pass
While this all feels so overwhelming, remember it is temporary. Every pandemic, every natural crisis has passed and so far mankind has survived. All feelings, all situations, everything changes. We will move on from COVID-19 and life will return to normal, maybe a bit different or a “new normal” but it will pass.
Validate your kids fears
If your kids are afraid of something, try to validate their fears. Let them know you understand they are afraid. If they’re afraid of getting sick, you can remind them that a lot of smart people are working on this. Help them see what they can control, or how they can do their part by washing their hands and wearing their masks. If they’re afraid of something that seems silly or weird to you, remember to honor their fears and name them back. Ask them to help make a plan for what they can do when they’re afraid. Kids are often the best problem-solvers for their own problems.
Grieving the small things is okay
If you, or your family is feeling sad about missing out on things, that is okay. Somehow in this pandemic, everyone has felt that their sadness about missing usual events (e.g., Prom, birthday parties, Homecoming, moving into your dorm for the first time, etc.) isn’t valid because other people are facing much worse things like losing loved ones. While losing a friend or family is a great loss and tragic, it is still okay to grieve the loss of your normal. Every human being has the right to feel sad about something they lost. You don’t have to compare or judge what that is, it is okay to grieve.
Attend to your own grief
While you’re giving your kids permission to grieve their events and everyday life, give yourself that same grace. You might miss going into work, regular childcare, kids being in school, your hot yoga class, the vacation you planned all year, shopping without a mask–whatever you miss–you are allowed to miss. Don’t judge or compare, just let yourself feel your own loss of normalcy.
Kids can handle more than you think
Don’t forget kids are so resilient. If they ask questions, don’t hide the truth from them. Answer the best you can. This includes “I don’t know the answer.” You don’t have to be the expert –even the experts are struggling with that. You just have to be a safe place for your kids to get information and express their concerns.
Don’t solve your kids problems
That’s right. Don’t solve your kids problems. They can do that for themselves. They actually need to learn that skill for life. Don’t deprive them of that chance. What you CAN do is reflect the problem back to them, help them identify their feelings and ask them what they think we should do to solve it. No one likes being told what to do. Just help them figure out their own path. They’ll stick to it much more.
Prioritize self care
As parents, we have had all our spring, summer and fall plans change. Everything has moved, changed, and we’re dealing with SO MUCH right now. Remember to prioritize self care. This can be looking out the window, laughing with a friend, taking a hot bath, long shower, reading a book, giving yourself a hug, journaling, lighting a candle while you work, put on soothing music, meditating, admire nature when you walk around. There are tons of ideas, the point is whatever speaks to you — make it a priority to do something for yourself.
Help reframe the “why” in music practice, sports, school work and discipline
We’re seeing lots of kids lose their motivation to practice their instrument, sport, or special skills knowing their won’t be the usual concert, games, etc. Help your child to define their “why.” Why are they wanting to be good at music/sports, etc? Maybe it’s for future goals, maybe they can change their goal to being engaged in being the best. Help them explore beyond next year’s performances.
Try to keep routines as close to normal as possible
While we know this one is tough, but when you’re at home, it’s good for your families mental health to get up and try to keep the same routine as much as possible. That means waking up, showering, breakfast, etc.
GIVE YOURSELF GRACE!!!!!!!!!
Last — BUT NOT LEAST!!! Give yourself grace. You will not do any of this perfectly, no one will. If you find yourself disappointed, discouraged, or feeling like a failure — remember everyone is struggling, you’re not alone. Give yourself grace and take it day by day….maybe start reading from the top of this list again. Rinse and repeat. 🙂