Dr. Kimberly Riley
If you have struggled through these very odd times, as most of us have, you are not alone. This article can be a guide for you as the school year begins, holidays start to come around, and children continue to adjust to their new lives. Parenting through a pandemic is a unique experience, but we will all make it through with new insight and awareness about ourselves that will be beneficial in the future.
Back to School
Children in many areas of the United States are starting their school year differently than ever before, which means their parents are as well. Parents may feel helpless as they witness their children experience lots of big and new emotions. It can be scary for a parent to not know what to do or how to comfort their child, but because of the unknown, parents are left trying to manage their own anxiety about what the school year will look like.
Sometimes anxious thoughts are an indicator that someone needs more information about the situation that they can’t stop fretting over. When it comes to school this year, here are a few questions parents can ask themselves, their children, and the teachers. Some of these questions are general but having an answer will be helpful overall for parents.
Questions for yourself:
- What am I worried about?
- Why am I worried about what I am worried about?
- Who can I support in this season of life and who can support me?
- What emotion have I been feeling the most and how can I cope?
- What experience can I grow from during the pandemic?
They will be able to connect with their children’s teachers and create an environment at home that will support the learning that is needed for their child to be successful.
As parents get settled into at-home learning this year, children may have their own questions and needs that are specific to their development and understanding through this vastly different phase of life. Here are a few ways for children to gain some insight into the things that matter the most to them as they begin the school year.
Questions for children:
- When will I get to see my friends again in person?
- Will my teachers remember me when I return to school?
- What should I do if I don’t understand my homework?
- How will I know when we get to go back to school?
- When will I get to play school sports again?
- Are school events going to still happen this year?
- What should I do when I feel sad about school?
- Is it okay that sometimes I feel angry about all of the changes?
- Who can I talk to when my parents are busy with work?
- Can I take breaks, or do I have to do schoolwork all day long?
These are questions that adults sometimes have answers to, but often these are questions that children have to ask themselves and then come up with their best answers and match them to the answers they received from the adults in their life. Some of the questions may not be able to be answered yet, but children still may be curious, so they will have to manage their emotions despite the unknown.
It is important to let children explore their ideas about school and what will happen next as well as providing them with the answers they are looking for (assuming they are available). Once children have a better understanding of what is going on, they should be able to focus on getting their work done throughout the day.
Parents and children should work together to come up with something that works for everyone involved because at-home learning involves everyone who is there during the time that the child is trying to learn. Because the child has their own needs, it would be helpful to hear what those are and incorporate them into the day also.
Play Dates and Social Activities
As time goes on, things will not look the same for socializing between friend groups as they did at the beginning of the pandemic. Parents and children are still navigating play dates and being social within different settings, and it is not easy. Children’s needs to socialize vary based on their age, so a young preschool child will likely want to do different activities with their friends than older teens.
As a parent, you have to set boundaries for both age groups, sometimes at the same time, based on the current guidelines in your area, family rules, and the level of understanding your child has of their own ability to stay safe based on the current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Guidelines (CDC).
Children will naturally want to engage with others in ways that make the most sense to them. Just six months ago they were able to play with their friends without very many rules. Though during certain seasons of the year, they probably were encouraged to wash their hands and not share things that go into their mouths, it wasn’t expressed as something that could be a life-or-death decision.
Children were actively engaged with their friends in multiple settings, especially during play, but are now told to stay six feet or more away and to wear a mask. Children probably have had to think hard about what is being asked of them these days, yet they can do so easily because the time with their friends as a reward is valuable. Parents have to trust that their children will understand, adapt, and do their best because their time with their friends is important and necessary, even if it looks and feels different than it did in the past.
It may be a little more difficult for a parent to enforce certain rules with teens and young adults when it comes to their friends because they have already started to make decisions about what they feel is safe and unsafe that are independent of their parents. These young people may need their parents to give them information and then allow them to express their ideas about what it is that they are being asked to do.
This is also something that should happen with younger children too, but the teens and young adults will need to have intentional conversations with their parents about family rules and accountability to everyone they come in contact with. Teenagers have a lot of freedom and may often go places alone.
Some may even have jobs that require them to be in public. Parents can encourage their teens and young adults to start thinking about the importance of their peer interactions so that they can make the choices that they believe in and that will bring them the most peace in this season of their lives.
Teens, just like younger children are adjusting to new ways of being with their friends, so parents should give them the space to express themselves and make choices that are free in thinking, yet safe in behavior.
Both adults and children may struggle emotionally during the pandemic, as the unknown can feel scary and endless, leading to sadness, anger, and anxiety. If parents notice that they or their children are experiencing unhealthy emotional responses to everything happening around them, there are counselors at Seattle Christian Counseling available to work with them, their children, or everyone together as a family to find ways to cope through these tough times.
Christian Counseling for Parents
Parenting through the pandemic may feel overwhelming, but you are not alone – counselors are ready to take the journey with you. Christian counseling for parents is available as you seek to navigate this new normal and raise up your children according to God’s will. Feel free to contact me or one of the other counselors in the counselor directory to schedule an appointment today.
“Reading”, Courtesy of Jerry Wang, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Red Shirt, Black Mask”, Courtesy of Gayatri Malhotra, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Washing Up”, Courtesy of CDC, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hangin’ Out”, Courtesy of Cristina Gottardi, Unsplash.com, CC0 License