Last Thursday marked the first day back to school for most children here in B.C. The re-opening after months of closure during a global pandemic has caused an increase in anxiety for parents. Masks, learning groups, and socially distanced classrooms? This new normal has parents confused as to whether this is the correct step forward for them and their family. Each family is dealing with their own response and the diversity within their own community. Some families are finding alternative options such as homeschooling. For others, this simply is not an option. Others are satisfied with the current return to school plan. Now parents are making difficult decisions while they reflect on and consider what is best for their own family.
First and foremost it takes courage to get clear about what you believe is best. This can be uncomfortable, only you are equipped to make the right decision regardless of your neighbors' or friend's perspective of the situation.
Here are 6 tips on how to reduce the stress of this Back to School transition and set you on your path towards being the mindful, calmer parent you can be even during a pandemic!
1. Plan Accordingly.
Whether we like it or not, one human is simply that, only one human. Regardless of the demands being asked of you by work, your partner, your children’s teachers, what are realistic goals to set for yourself, your family, your children during this pandemic? What goals are reasonable/achievable and what goals will result in disappointment in yourself, your children, and your family? Take a moment now to write down some goals and daily tasks for your family that are realistically achievable.
With a likely hectic house getting kids ready for school or kids at home-school as well as working parents at home, all day long, you need to place self-care at the top of your to-do list. Being willing to recognize that you may be experiencing added stress is the first step. Next, acknowledge that you and your needs matter in the midst of all of these pandemic-related demands. Recognize that you have the power to make this decision. When stress levels rise you need to prioritize your self-care even more. Choosing this among the chaos demonstrates to your children the necessity of self-care. Rather than an overextended, tense, and distracted parent, your children can witness that self-care is part of healthy living. Amid this new reality of the COVID-19, taking mindful breaks to re-center will make a huge difference in helping you be more present when you are with your children.
3. Practice being present with your children.
Science consistently shows that relationships with family are a vital source of happiness. So, park your mobile phone on silent, drop the school and work demands and commit to 20-30 minutes daily of undivided attention to your children without a task to accomplish. Do a fun activity of their choice daily, go for a walk, or just have a cuddle on the couch. Set the intention to be fully present. That may sound simple, but be patient with yourself if it’s difficult to achieve at first.
4. Practice gratitude with your kids.
Expressing gratitude is one of the quickest and most powerful ways to feel calm and get present. Model this for your children. At the dinner table each night, have each family member give one example of something they are grateful for that day, no matter how small. This routine takes only a few moments, yet creates a connection. It helps the family conversation organize around certainty, what is known, reassuring, and which is calming.
5. Be aware of how you respond to the world around you.
Demonstrate compassion not only with yourself and your children but also with the world around you. Given all that is currently happening, it’s easy to retract with anxiety and give an anxious message in response to the anxiety all around us. Choose to practice the safety rules science has given us for COVID-19 and ensure yourself and your family what can be controlled based on this information. Others may be in highly reactive states when you do go for a shop or a walk. Breath and look to understand while demonstrating patience and calm to your children. Modeling and practicing compassion will help your children develop a calmer response to any given circumstance they encounter.
6. Self-care, again.
Okay, a second reminder about self-care because it matters this much! As parents, it’s easy to be distracted from our own needs due to the many responsibilities we have for others especially at a time when the demands on us have dramatically risen. As a result, it’s easy to forget to schedule our own self-care. Many of us even feel guilty when we try to take time to do the things that we enjoy. Recognize that self-care creates “a healthier, happier you” which in turn results in you being a more effective, healthier, and happier parent. The result? Healthier and happier children and family!
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