It’s almost time for a new school year to begin, and there’s still a great deal of uncertainty related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Parents are paying close attention to guidance from their school district on masks, social distancing and other precautions to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Concerns about protecting the health and safety of students – while still providing the best-possible learning conditions – may be creating additional stress for families and entire communities.
While it’s clear that COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon, there are some things parents of young children can do to help ease the transition.
- Stay informed and connected. Keep track of instructions, guidelines and important dates as classes resume this year. Determine the various ways your school and school district are communicating with families, such as through a dedicated webpage, email and social media. As you receive information about the school year, discuss relevant details with your child and other caregivers. Find out what resources are available to your student, and don’t hesitate to connect with school staff and teachers for advice.
- Be present and reassuring. Although children may be less preoccupied with COVID-19 than their parents and other adults, it’s important to be there for them when they do have concerns. Let them take the lead, and then answer their questions in an honest and reassuring way. They’re great observers, so be mindful of what you say around them, and be careful to always model a calm, positive attitude. You can help your kids put things in perspective by reminding them that their school and community are working together to help keep people safe and healthy. Keep checking in with your child, and offer love, affection and comfort.
- Help your child reduce and manage stress. It’s natural for kids to worry. Make sure you are giving them ample opportunity to share their concerns rather than being dismissive of their feelings. Sticking to a regular schedule, spending time outdoors and helping your children get enough sleep and exercise are a few things you can do as a parent to reduce their stress. You can also teach them different techniques to cope with anxiety, such as deep breathing or meditation. Journaling is another great stress-relief activity for children. Practicing optimism and gratitude regularly as a family will go a long way toward lifting everybody’s mood.
COVID-19 is putting exceptional pressure on parents, and it’s normal to feel frustrated or overwhelmed. Give yourself some time to decompress. This may be easier said than done for many parents, but keep in mind that what’s good for you is also good for your children.
Finally, remember that there are resources available to help parents and students navigate the school year. Professional support is also available if you have serious concerns about your child’s emotional health or need help managing your family’s stress.
Dr. David Lowenstein is a Columbus, Ohio-based psychologist with more than 35 years of experience. He conducts individual, family, and group therapy sessions in his German Village office and also via telehealth. Dr. Lowenstein is also available for expert forensic testimony, and for educational workshops and presentations. He is frequently called upon as an expert source for print, radio, and broadcast media. Contact Dr. Lowenstein at Lowenstein & Associates, 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.