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Coping with Back to School Season Overwhelm

Updated: Jan 7, 2021

It’s September, and children everywhere are yanking out their uniforms, knapsacks, paperwork, and supplies, packing up lunches and snacks, and getting ready to rejoin the classroom scene. Hustling out to the bus stop, or listening out for the carpool honk, or hopping on bikes, rushing to be on time for the morning bell.

“Bye! Love you- have a great day; learn well!”

(One of my favorite aspects of homeschooling is no longer starting the day with that morning rush.)

Even pre-covid, many kids, parents, and teachers felt some anxiety with the back to school season.

The change in season, energy, and focus, as we bid the long lazy days of summer goodbye can bring on the blues, and impending sense of “oh, no- here we go again.” The unknowns of the next grade level, shifting of social groups, teacher and homeroom assignments, and even the bus or carpool schedule. It’s a lot of transition, particularly for the students who don’t thrive scholastically, the parents who just want a feasible routine in place, (and the teachers who are secretly burnt out).

Of course, there are some that love the back-to-school crisp Autumn nostalgia- the fresh, fragrant leaves of foliage and notebooks inviting a new year of possibilities. And many who feel bouts of both dread and excitement. (Feelings are rarely binary.)

If you are one of the many parents, teachers, or kids who are feeling particularly nervous this year, know that you’re not alone. This year brings with it, not only the usual mixed emotions of starting anew, but the compounded unknown of Covidlife 2.0. We had all hoped that by this time, we’d be breathing a collective sigh of relief, with Corona fading in our rearview mirrors. Instead, we are preparing for the possibility of this “second wave” and all the unknowns it entails. Trying to keep up smiles for the kids, while donning masks and literally distancing. This is hard on everyone.

But like any challenge, the best we can do, is to do our best.

We, as the adults, can be honest and reassuring- to our kids and in our own brains.

We can allow them the space to cry and express their fears and concerns- validating without mitigating.

We can level with them, tell them that the doctors, teachers, and parents are trying our best to keep them as safe as we can. That we don’t know exactly what will be next, but that we are here for them always.

We can be courageous and compassionate: we can model resilience by trying to take the next good step, and kindness by being patient with everyone’s added fragility- including our own.

We can turn to faith- not that everything will end up the way we want it to; there’s no guarantee of that. But that as tough as this is, regardless of how this all plays out, we can try to be there for others, that there will always be goodness, good people, and hope.

We can try to let go of what we can’t control, and instead, try to focus on what we can do for ourselves and for others as we navigate this next stage.

That will look a little different each day, even each hour- depending on our own emotional reserves, and what the people around us need. We will be imperfect- always. This is a process, and we all need more grace now than ever. We don’t have all the answers- we have hardly any these days. But we a different kind of toolkit- we have love and care and kindness and patience and humility and courage- these will serve us well as we go forward and lead our children through this and throughout all our life experiences and challenges. If we can cultivate these values and practices, this will have been the best education we can offer them.

Learn more about how to manage overwhelming thoughts and feelings with this tool


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