5 Ways to Beat Pandemic Stress During Back to School
Back to school season is stressful even at the best of times. When you add the Covid pandemic and information overload, sending children off to school becomes downright overwhelming. But there are ways to keep your family on track during this uncertain time, from establishing routines to planning fun breaks for the weekends. And always remember, if you, your partner, or child is struggling with emotional or mental health issues seek professional help.
The Top Five
Creating before school and after school routines can be especially helpful in getting children to complete pandemic health precautions. Setting up an environment for children to succeed in a task is a key Montessori principle which translates to the home. Put a small laundry hamper near the front door for children to place washable face masks in as soon as they come inside. Next to that, have a pump sanitizer or another child-safe disinfecting solution. This sequence can also be created in the car by using a small crate or other container as a hamper. When establishing new routines ask yourself, does my child have everything they need to complete the task successfully? Also, is the task age-appropriate and safe? You can always ask your pediatrician for advice. By placing all the items needed for your family’s new routine in one place, you’ve set the stage for success.
Decide on your comfort level
You and your partner decide what level of cleaning you want for your household. It will vary from household to household, especially if there are immunocompromised people living with you. So, check with your doctor. Before involving children in a specific chore, decide what your level of comfort is and how thorough you want cleaning to be. After you're clear about cleaning guidelines and level of skill needed, look for age-appropriate chores your child is able to complete. For example, an older child will generally have the skills required to wipe down their backpack. Disinfectant wipes are easily added to the "cleanup station" by the door.
If your household has a long list of cleanup chores when children come home from school, follow up with a special snack or another downtime activity. A transitional activity will move children from the socially exciting school experience into an afternoon of homework or after-school lessons. These transition activities or breaks do not have to be intricate events. They’re better kept small and quiet. Maybe while enjoying a snack read a book or a chapter of a book each day with your children to help ease them into a quieter home space.
Sleep is vital
Study after study shows that getting enough sleep is necessary for both mental and physical health. This is true for children and adults. Keep to your children’s and your bedtimes. It will result in less stress and anxiety, which have been heightened due to the pandemic. Read the Johns Hopkins list of sleep benefits here.
As pandemic effects ripple out in many areas of life, we can forget to schedule family activities. But laughing and making space for fun are important to keep everyone healthy. Outdoor fall activities like farm visits and apple picking get the whole family into the sunshine. Indoor activities like arts and crafts or reading can be enjoyed in your own backyard or local park; being outside in the warm autumn weather soothes and relieves tension. With winter just around the corner, brainstorm ways to keep the outdoor momentum. Quick winter nature walks, building snow people, and ice-skating are all ways to continue outdoor time. Before those cold temperatures come, make sure everyone has warm clothes to bundle up.
Creating routines adds a level of safety that children crave. Familiar routines also cue children to move from one environment, such as school, to another like home or an after-school activity. Check out Psychology Today’s suggestions for establishing routines and the American Academy of Pediatrics’ list, as well.
About the Author
V. Kulikow is a former Montessori teacher and youth services librarian. She currently works as a UX designer and enjoys content creation both with words and images.