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by Dr. Brad Schwall
| Adolescents, Teens, Children, College, Young Adults, Families, Homework, Parenting, School, COVID-19, Corona Virus

Back-to-School: A new school year in the new normal

This year, we are adjusting to new processes, changing routines and safety precautions.

It’s a new school year – in a new normal. All of us – students, teachers and parents – are facing the normal transitions that happen at back-to-school time but with added stresses and uncertainties. Usually, we are adjusting to new teachers, new classmates and new schedules and routines. This year, we are adjusting to new processes, changing routines and safety precautions. We are using the words “pivot,” “unprecedented” and “uncertainty.” We are all on edge. Yet, this is an opportunity.

Even with the unpredictability and loss of normalcy, back-to-school time is an exciting milestone in the development of children. Our children are still growing and learning, and we must pay attention to their development even with the added variables.

For children and teens – this is an opportunity to build resilience and skills for coping and problem-solving.

Educators are serving as a consistent presence and they, as always, play a crucial role in the lives of our youth.

Life is actually always unpredictable and we must always be adapting. In fact, being able to adapt and be resilient are cornerstones of mental health.

Here are some principles to keep in mind.

Expect the Unexpected

Disappointment in life typically centers around unmet expectations. We expect to be with friends. We expect school to be as it always has been. Lately, when we begin to expect a change, the change is changed and there’s a new plan.

By accepting that we don’t know what to expect, we can be flexible as we navigate the start to the year. Change becomes expected and is then less disappointing.

Give yourself grace. Stress from change is cumulative. We may not feel as productive as plans have to be adjusted. It’s OK to miss friends. It’s OK to complain. Tell yourself it’s OK to grieve.

Students: Changes will happen. Make the most of your school year even though it will be different. You will look back and be glad that you made your experience as positive as possible.

Parents: You set the tone for your kids. Having an attitude that exhibits flexibility and patience will reassure your kids. Support your kids’ teachers!

Educators: Stay focused on your mission. Educators are used to adapting. The adaptations you’re having to make are, as we are saying, unprecedented. Support each other. Get support for yourselves.

Problem-solve

Find ways to adapt and adjust. It may not be perfect, but find the best solution. This is an ideal opportunity for youth to develop resilience. Problem-solving plays an important part in well-being. Not problem-solving leads to a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.

Students: Find ways to connect with friends. Look at what you need to adjust based on your learning environment to do your best. When we problem-solve, we gain a sense of control and hope.

Parents: You are juggling much – which is an understatement. Get your kids involved in problem-solving to manage schedules, work, school, and regular life. Identify the problem or stressor. Brainstorm how to prevent problems and resolve problems. Expect trial and error when making adjustments.

Educators: Consider what you believe to be most important in teaching and look for the best ways possible to achieve those values. Administrators’ support and teamwork are key to finding solutions to make the learning experience as positive as it can be. Focus on the goal and work backwards to find solutions to get you closest to achieving the goal.

Be Grateful

Nothing is as it used to be. Yet, some things remain constant. Parents are proud to see their kids grow and move through their schooling. Kids will learn. Kids will begin to have more ways to be together. Teachers care about their students.

Just as we are united in having to make major adjustments, be united in gratitude. Show more appreciation. Give more grace. Offer more support. Gratitude is the foundation for resilience. When we can see the positive during difficult circumstances, we can gain the strength to survive, and even, thrive through challenges.

The Center provides counseling, testing and assessments for students throughout the school year. We understand the growing anxiety and depression that has been heightened during COVID-19. We're here to support parents, teachers and students. Click here to find a therapist for you.

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