Back to School – Covid and Anxiety

Are you a parent? Do you have younger siblings? Are you an aunt or an uncle? Chances are you have kids in your life at some level. If you suffer from anxiety you are keenly aware of some of the debilitating issues that comes with it. You are also uniquely qualified to help those kids BECAUSE you have anxiety.

If you recall your school days (or maybe you’re still, there) there are all sorts of social pressures around your peer’s. I’m not professing to understand the modern teenager at 50, but I have kids I do know what they go through. Things are different now, kids don’t meet at the mall (hi all my Gen X friends, remember those days? See you at orange Julius) they meet online.

The digital world is cruel, people hide in anonymity with screen names and post messages to others they would never say to someone’s face. Remove the adult filter and kids are worse. On top of that teenagers are starting to experience hormonal shifts that come with puberty and these swings can amplify anxiety.

Will the poke be mandatory?

On top of that, kids today are more tapped into the real world because they are online so much. Mass shootings? Your teenager knows all about it. Opioid epidemic? Your kids have seen it online. All of this can trigger anxiety and if you have it and these are your children its likely they inherited some of their issues from you.

There is no “fix all” but there are 3 important things you can do with kids of any age that will help them navigate anxiety.

  1. Talk to them: I know every says talk to your kids. Really take the time to do this, particularly on current events. Its critical they have a venue other than their peers to talk about the issue.
  2. Invest in what they love. If your kid is a gamer, try playing some games yourself. If your kid is a soccer player, take them to the soccer field. Whatever they are into, start investing your time into it too.
  3. Listen and watch them when they are online: This is critical as so much interaction happens online now.

School is right around the corner and kids will get anxiety. Start building the foundation now so if needed you can help the child later. You can do this; they are totally worth it!

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Advice from a Dad: How to deal with kids going back to school during a pandemic

Normally I would link an article and give a quote then pontificate about the theory espoused in said article. We aren’t going to do that today. Today I am reaching into my parenting tool box to give you one sure fire way to navigate the pending education issue in the fall that most families are going to have to deal with due to the pandemic. It’s actually a very simple technique, one you have heard of over and over again. That said many of us get exhausted from trying this, we get lax and we settle into an uncomfortable acceptance.

The “simple technique”? Talk to your kids. I know you have heard it before but do you actually do it? When my kids were little (they are now college age) I talked to them but not as directly as I think I should have. You see as a parent one of our primary jobs is to help our kids navigate hard times, to soften the blow of reality if you will. Well reality is pounding on your door with a pandemic raging, civil unrest, and a pending Presidential election that will probably be the most vitriolic we’ve had in a long time.

“What do I say?” I know that’s the hardest thing to get started. The first thing I would recommend doing is ask your child directly “Do you feel comfortable going back to school in the fall?” No matter what their answer is, follow up with a “why?” Let them have the chance to explain why they feel the way they do. Let them have the adult conversation. I know there are some of you out there who are aghast at the notion your 7 year old daughter/son has to deal with this let alone answer these adult questions.

Whom would you prefer they ask? It’s everywhere, and they hear it. If it’s the TV in the back ground, your cell phone conversation, news blips online they see, they know what’s going on. The thing about going back to school is, they are the ones who actually have to go and do it. The adults make the decision and the kids have to execute the mandate. Involve your kids in reasonable discourse. Example: I wouldn’t say bring your kid to a protest at the town hall but when the school committee meeting is on your local cable access and they are discussing it, have the child watch.

An engaged and educated child is critical today. I know, it’s an adult issue and it sucks they have to deal with it. It’s far more important that they engage this issue with you first and learn what they can about it through your guidance prior to being thrust into a situation where they will be confused. Let’s assume school DOES happen in the fall, what does it look like? Segregated seating, masks, some teachers out? Not to mention, what narrative are they going to get from said teachers?

There isn’t a right or wrong answer here. Your kids are going to be on the front lines of a huge social and political issue in a month. It’s a lot of pressure for them and they need your guidance. You are a great parent, give them the benefit of the doubt and let them grow up a little here and engage them on this issue NOW.

I know, I wish things were normal. Soccer on Saturday mornings, a winter play/concert in the school auditorium. It’s not going to happen anytime soon and as a parent with older kids who got all that unfettered you have my empathy. Talk to your kids, find out if they are okay, find out what they think and they will be better prepared for whatever happens in our schools this fall.

You are doing awesome, one day at a time.

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