Bouncing Back with Resiliance as Schools Reopen
For the last year, you have dealt with the challenges of returning to school. It’s difficult to manage educational program requirements while juggling your own personal and work-related responsibilities. During this unsettling time, riddled with the anxiety and stress from uncertainty, it is important to focus on the positive. You and your family have overcome many unavoidable life changes in a short amount of time. Adjusting to life during a pandemic with children or even just, in general, earns everyone a gold medal.
As a new school year approaches, there will be new challenges to overcome which can be anxiety provoking at times. Dr. Laura Newman, Psychologist at Lighthouse Guild, reminds us that “anxiety management is being realistic.” and emphasizes that “you should not feel discouraged about being anxious right now because the situation we’re in is unique and not normal. Anxiety is a predictable response to the lack of control and ambiguity we are experiencing.” Take a deep breath and reflect on the successes you’ve had this past year as a parent, caregiver, and family. You can do this!
Advocate for Your Child
Preparing for school this year may require a few extra steps but don’t forget that one of the most important things you can do is advocate for your child. Once you’ve read through your school’s policies, be sure to voice any concerns or questions you may have regarding new COVID-19 procedures.
Communicating the needs of your child to their teachers will help ensure a successful school year. Many schools are offering different learning methods which require teachers to develop multiple learning strategies to meet the ever changing needs of students. It is important for parents to assist the teachers and Individualized Education Program (IEP) team, by being actively involved in the IEP meetings to ensure your child’s needs will be met this year. In addition to participating in meetings, educate yourself about available resources and understand the legal obligation the school has to meet your child’s needs in the academic setting.
Do Your Homework
The COVID-19 pandemic has posed many challenges and one of them is choosing the right learning method for your child. Parents are faced with a hard decision to choose between in-person, virtual, hybrid or homeschool options. Unfortunately, there is not a ‘one learning style fits all’ method so you must choose the one that meets the needs of your family. Once you know what learning methods your school will be offering, keep a few key considerations in mind when making your decision:
- Type of learning experience your child will receive
- Time required for the parent
- Time required for student
- Learning needs
- Social-emotional development
Calm the Nerves
If you are feeling nervous about returning to school, chances are your children are as well. Many children may be fearful of returning to social situations after a year of isolation. Practice positive self-talk to help counter these feelings. When you hear your child say something negative, take a three-step approach.
- Find out what’s wrong
- Reassure them
- Help them choose a positive statement to say instead
You can also practice deep-breathing techniques. Breathing meditation can contribute to a state of mindfulness by bringing your focus to one thing, your breath. This will help draw your attention away from worry thoughts, helping to control your emotions. A common technique is the six-two-four breathing method. Slow your breath down by inhaling deeply to the count of six, pause for two seconds, exhale to the count of four and repeat for two minutes.
As a parent, it is hard to support your family if you are stressed and anxious. It is important to take time for self-care and even more so during times like these! Some parents feel taking time away from their children to do something they love is a selfish act. In reality, it is an act of love towards your child; parents cannot pour from an empty cup. It is also important to do activities that bring joy and energize our minds and bodies — even if that means spending thirty minutes away from your child. Self-care results in happier, healthier parents, and therefore happier, healthier children.
Children can also benefit from self-care and the best way to teach this is leading by example. Go on family walks, read together, listen to calming music, or do activities as a family that show your children how to relieve stress in age-appropriate ways.
Expand Your Support Network
A strong support network can be vital in helping you through these tough times. There is strength in numbers, and opportunities to join with other parents who share similar concerns you may have about returning to school. For many parents of children with special needs, a diagnosis-related support group may fill a gap between medical treatment and the need for emotional support. Medical professionals may not provide the type of emotional support you need. Family members may not fully understand the impact raising a child with special needs has on your life. Participating in a social-support group among people with shared experiences can help.
During this past year, Lighthouse Guild’s Tele-Support Network has become an emotional and social lifeline for many parents of children with vision loss, teens, young adults, and adults from all over the country. Participants in the tele-support groups share everyday struggles, offer advice on coping with vision loss and stay informed about helpful resources. All while feeling supported by others going through similar experiences. Parenting a child with vision impairment can feel isolating, and navigating a world filled with new obstacles can be overwhelming, but you do not have to face it alone!