I was in Walmart recently as they were filling the shelves with the annual back-to-school supplies. It’s 2020, and a new school year is starting. Or is it? Are they teaching in the classroom, or is the education they offer online? Or, are you faced with the option to choose? If you’re like most parents looking to their school board for guidance, you are still in uncharted and uncertain territory.
As in most things, information comes from every side, and what it brings is almost impossible to weed through because it remains contradictory. The American Academy of Pediatrics says kids need to go to school, “the APA strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.”
The CDC creates guidelines to protect the children, yet they seem nearly impossible to meet and are ever-changing. The media speaks of Covid-19 upticks in cases and warns that the children may not be at risk, statistics tell us that is true, but the teachers might be. Every piece of information layered upon another is enough to make your head hurt.
As a mother, this leaves you in a ball of confusion. You have enough on your plate without having to figure all of this out too. But it’s 2020, and this is just one more part of a year we didn’t see coming. I know this: like everything else you have dealt with this year, you can handle this one too. Here are a few things I want you to embrace as you tackle this new challenge.
Your Child Will Be OK
Whatever decision you or your school board make, your child will be okay. Flexibility and resiliency are qualities of great value in an adult’s life. These traits are even more critical than Math or English, enabling us to maneuver our ever-changing, challenging world successfully. Your child is, without a doubt, learning what that looks like in 2020. Don’t underestimate their ability to adapt; they can do this. If they learn these abilities during this challenging year, they will be even more prepared for their future.
Trust Yourself, You Know Your Kid Best
Trust you. There is no one who knows your kids like you do—educator, doctor, or school board member. Every child is different with needs that are uniquely theirs. You know what stresses them, how they learn, what triggers anxiety, and what creates peace. Choose the road that works for your children. If the school board doesn’t offer an option that works for your child, join forces with other parents to apply pressure that they do.
Model Positivity (And Give Yourself Grace)
If you stay calm, they will remain calm. I’m not saying that you can’t go into your bedroom, close the door, and put a pillow over your face to let out a good scream from being driven to the brink every day. Of course you should do that. I’m merely telling you that the way you present things to them will guide their emotions. If you seem optimistic, they will believe it’s not a disaster waiting to happen. It’s an opportunity to try something new. Change your view; they will change theirs too.
Don’t Feel Guilty for Working, Mom
You are not failing with the choices you have to make. You may be faced with choosing between online or in class. If you have a job, your child needs to attend school. You don’t have the luxury of online; you have a responsibility to provide. You are showing your child that life sometimes requires we do something that isn’t easy. But it is the right thing to do. You are fulfilling a responsibility to your family that came way before this season of uncertainty. This becomes another life lesson that is more valuable than the education gained in the halls of learning.
If You’re Homeschooling But Not a “Homeschool Mom”
You may be in the online group. But you never were the homeschool mom. You’re swimming in the deep end and feel as if you are failing at every turn. I don’t believe that is true, but what I do know is don’t give up; find some help. Reach out to other moms, talk to your child’s teacher. Of any life season, this one means you are in this together. You are fighting the same battles and trying to work your way to the other side. There is strength in numbers, so gather them.
Work Toward Real-Life Solutions
Don’t simply surrender to the current fears that seem to be creating decisions—sometimes good ones, others not so great. The school board and local politicians are only looking at the collective. Often making decisions that are driven by the loudest voices and confusing information. I have repeatedly heard parents say schools should be open, with the same concerns the APA states. There is more at stake than just the education of kids, there is the whole child. As the discussion continues, I would encourage parents to lead in this process. With caution, cognizant of the health concerns, but ready to engage to create a real-life solution for the well-being of all kids.
Our Kids Need Other Kids
Finally, as you navigate through this process remember your kids need other kids. There is a social aspect of their lives that has been lost in this year of careful gathering. But, at this point in Covid-19, we are wise enough to recognize we need both sanitizer and human interaction. Find outlets for your kids to play, interact, and enjoy one another’s company. Creating this opportunity is a mental health issue, not just for them but for you too!
Allow Others to Help You
I know some children have to have structure. Perhaps they land on the autism spectrum, have learning disabilities, or emotional challenges that make flexibility impossible. This season has been more than hard. Let those around you help. Whether it’s a family member or friend, take all the help you can get. Let other moms know what you need, whether lobbying for school to return or just a helping hand. You’ve already got a tough road, and this season is making it harder.
For all moms, “You’ve got this.” You won’t do it perfectly. You will be frustrated, confused, overwhelmed, and exhausted! You will also have victories, laughter, and conversations with your kids that draw you closer. You were made for this year, for this experience, for your kids. One day your whole family will have the luxury of looking back and saying, “Remember 2020?” It is then you will recount all the experiences with chagrin and inevitable laughter. Until that day comes, I promise you mom, “You’ve got this.”
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