Spread some happy

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Right now we are all being bombarded with so much information about what fall is going to look like. I’m overwhelmed with the amounts of opinions and content being thrown my way. Not to mention that its ever changing and conflicting information.

School, sports, music lessons, daycare, play dates, and pretty much every aspect of life will be different. We don’t know what September and beyond holds for us and every single family’s situation is different with its own challenges.

Lately I have been laying awake at night wondering what is the right plan for us. I’m a stay at home mom for three kids that works part-time online. My sons will be in Grade 5 and kindergarten, and my daughter just turned two.

If I decide to home school, I worry about providing enough time to each of their needs. I also worry that their will be too much screen time in between my one on one attention. I’m scared that they will lose friendships because they won’t see their classmates. I worry they will miss the routine and the stress will be a lot for them.

If I decide to send them to school, I worry of course they will be the unfortunate one to unknowingly catch Covid from a classmate. Or that they will go back to school with all the excitement of a slight “return to normalcy” only to have it ripped away after a month. Will we be right back to social distancing and shut into our house for the winter months? What will this do to their little brains and emotional well being?

I worry about myself and if I will burn out or become impatient over time. Will it mentally be too exhausting to educate my kids, work, and run a household properly?

I worry about making the wrong decision and not being able to get over it. Am I overreacting by keeping them home? Or am I under reacting by following the people around me and sending them to school while ignoring my gut? Its an absolute impossible situation with no right answer.

What can I do to help my Kids with Back to School?

There’s only so much that is in my control:

I can decide how we live our lives on a day to day basis. Limiting our exposure in outside environments, wearing our masks, washing our hands, and limiting our social bubbles

I can decide whether I home school, virtual school or go back to the classroom

That’s it. Everything else is out of my control and I have to learn to live with that.

So that’s how I have to handle things for my own sanity, but how do I shield my kids a little, and make their life a happy and safe environment no matter how this year plays out?

I have to be honest with them

I have been tempted to downplay the impact Covid-19 is having on the world. Different cities and countries are having varying experiences, and overall our home city is in a pretty good situation. But they need to know the possibilities that could happen and why its important to follow the safety measures.

We’ve had to have the difficult situations where they were confused about friends getting together with other friends while we were not going anywhere. Its a fine balance of explaining different choices, while also being careful not to sound like you’re passing judgement. Everyone has different comfort levels and we have to respect them the same that they respect ours.

Then there’s the confusion of cohorts and bubbles and quaranteams (not my favorite term bleh), and try explaining that to them. “Well mom I don’t understand. Why can I only see a few friends and not others, but I’m able to go to hockey camp and in a month I will probably be back school?”

I’ve had to be incredibly honest with my kids that we’re doing the best we can to navigate each situation and make proper decisions, but we too will make mistakes and probably not get things right. How do you explain to a ten year old the delicate balance of their mental health through socializing and sports, while keeping some sort of social distancing structure in place? You can’t so you just have to ask them to trust your decisions.

Get the conversations going now

Have open and honest talks with the kids about everything that is happening with school

When our now 5 year old had just turned 4, his preschool organized a field trip to the science center. He was so excited and counted down the days.

On the big day I realized on the drive to his preschool that we had never had an indepth conversation about stranger danger, or what to do if he got lost or separated from his group. Or just the general safety rules of being in public without mom or dad. In a wonderful parenting fail, I quickly rattled off everything I could think of at this poor little child, including writing my phone number on his ankle in pen “just in case” he needed it. I overwhelmed him and accidentally scared the crap out of him. So I got a phone call an hour into the field trip saying they couldn’t get him to stop crying and I had to go pick him up. Way to go Mom.

With our oldest child, I had started those conversations earlier and was much more organized, so he never felt overwhelmed. Throwing everything at my second son on the day of was too much for him to process. The same goes for the conversations that we need to have with our kids about what school will look like this September. We can’t wait till the night before to bombard them with how things may or may not be different this year.

I want to prepare my kids for situations so they won’t get blindsided with the following topics:

  • They need to know proper safety measure
  • They need to be prepared that school is going to look different than it did last year
  • Their social lives will be different. They might not get to go to birthday parties of friends in other classrooms due to cohorts. And they can’t be upset about that as much as it hurts
  • They need to understand why a teacher pulls them back from entering the bathroom at the same time as a kid from a different class. Or asks them not to high five buddies in the hallway. And that they didn’t do anything wrong
  • I want them to know that if they get sick at school, they will be isolated by themselves until I get there and they don’t need to be scared, its just precautionary.
  • They need to be prepared that school could end abruptly again as it did last year, but it won’t be that way forever
  • I want them to feel safe and that I will support decisions that they make in their best interest. If we proceed with a plan to go to the classroom and they change their mind and want to switch to virtual learning I will support them and do everything I can to make it work.
  • Most importantly I want them to know that as parents, we’ve never lived through something like this before and we are making decisions with the information that we have in our best interest as a family and that’s all we can do. Its all anyone can do. So when their friends families are making slightly different decisions. Those are what’s right for their situation.

Every family is going to have different conversations around their own situation. The above topics are applicable to mine. But my motive is to make sure they are prepared for what the fall may or may not look like.

Provide Consistency At Home

As the schooling landscape changes, my plan to help make things a little bit more routine and constant at home is to create 2-3 constant activities. What I mean by this is that no matter what happens I will have 2-3 manageable activities that we will consistently do at home, on the same days, at the same time.

I am labeling 30 minutes a day, everyday at 4 pm, Family Activity time. I chose 4 pm because if they are in school full time, than they will be home by then. And if they are back to virtual schooling, then they will be here and need something to break up the day at that point in time

In our school district there are three scenarios. Scenario 1 is back to regular school with precautions. This is the current plan that they plan on moving forward with. Scenario 2 is school half time and Scenario 3 puts the kids back at home with virtual learning. Depending on cases and transmission in our area, the decision to move into a different scenario can happen overnight. So I want to offer a level off consistency at home that they can hold onto.

Activity 1: Monday and Wednesday I plan on having the kids do 30 minutes of Big Life Journal . I love love love this company and the activities and emotional development it promotes for a wide range of age groups. My oldest has always struggled with communication and managing his emotions. Their products have always helped him. I want to offer them an outlet to express emotions and thoughts they might not be able to fully comprehend on their own through these uncertain times. Check out Big Life Journal HERE. They have both physical and digital products available

Activity 2: Tuesday and Thursday I plan on having workout time. There are so many great online resources for yoga, dance videos or different kinds of cardio. Or we can just head out for a bike ride or a walk. I don’t know what the limitations of recess and gym are going to be like at school. Or if we are at home sometimes its easy for a whole day to pass with limited physical movement within the house. So I want to have that minimum amount of 30 minutes a couple days a week that we play together as a family.

Activity 3: Friday night Art Night. The possibilities are endless. We can paint, color, do crafts. Anything! Just as long as its creative, fun and an opportunity to escape the challenges of the week. We can get as messy as we want and enjoy making things together

Where do we go from here?

I think its safe to say that no one with school age children is overly comfortable with September. Or maybe you read this article and you think I’m an excessive worrier and need to settle down. Trust me I agree with you on that!

No matter what you’re thinking on back to school is, I have only two requests, and I’m sure we will share the need for these requests:

  1. Don’t beat yourself up about what you decide, or what has been decided for you based on your situation. You are doing what you need to do to make your family life, work life and personal life move forward. If you’ve read this entire article and made it to this point, I’m guessing you are feeling some of the same feelings I am. I put a lot of guilt and pressure on myself and I will try to heed my own advice and try to relax a bit.
  2. Don’t push your decision on anyone else or make anyone second guess themselves. There are a million factors that are playing into everyone’s schooling decisions this fall and they are not easy. I have had a few situation lately that have popped up that pushed my comfort zone and I was worried that I would be judged by choosing to not participate. The reactions from the people involved were amazing and I felt really supported. I want to be mindful that I react to people in the same way and teach my kids to be sensitive as well.

With this I sign off and wish you all the best for the Back to school season. As always, I would love to read any comments below and advice on how you are approaching your return to fall.

Stay safe and Healthy