Coping With COVID: Back-To-School On Pins And Needles

If you’ve got a child of grade school age, you don’t need another reminder that the 2020-21 school year is upon us. You’ve been inundated with information for months now, juggling too many balls for way too long, and feeling so overextended that your joints just might pop.

Figuratively, anyway.

If it wasn’t hard enough working through a summer with limited childcare, restricted outings, and trying to focus on your own work with bored kids underfoot, here comes another set of dates ready to change everything all over again. How do you justify sending your children back to crowded classrooms and hallways with insufficient social distancing and supplies of personal protective equipment, when cases of COVID-19 among school-age children are on the rise nationwide? And if your need for work and income to keep your family clothed, fed, and sheltered necessitates it, how can you comfort your own anxieties about balancing the risk?

The weight on parents is immense — so too the weight on teachers, many of whom are working with limited supplies, too many students, minimal support, and few options open to them. And even worse, the overflow is beginning to fall onto the shoulders of the students themselves, many of whom are too young to fully grasp or self-regulate the emotions and struggles they’re experiencing.

Our own adult minds weren’t designed to handle the extent of trauma, distress, and upsetting news to which we’re now exposed 24/7 — and given that children often react directly to the behavior and moods of the adults around them, it’s no wonder that all of us are experiencing high stress and anxiety.

We highlighted this on our social media last week, but in Ohio alone, there’s been evidence that kids are increasingly suffering from symptoms of stress and anxiety as the school year draws closer. It’s a similar story across the nation — and it’s heartbreaking for family, friends, and anyone who works with children to see the effects this pandemic is having on them.

So, whether your kids are heading fully back into the classroom, navigating a staggered schedule of in-person and online classes, or pioneering the Zoom-driven wave of the future, it’s important to keep an eye out for signs of distress. For example:

  • A change in sleeping or eating patterns
  • Obsessive tendencies or behavior
  • Increased or more intense displays of emotion
  • Lack of interest in normal activities
  • Social isolation or withdrawal from friends
  • Stomach aches, headaches, or other somatic complaints

All of these symptoms can be indications that a child may be in need of therapeutic intervention — or at the very least, a heart-to-heart (where the worried parent does more asking & listening than talking!) and some extra support.

(And speaking of, we’ve got a whole section of our audio library devoted to guided imagery and guided meditations specifically to help children and teenagers navigate their emotional minefields — pandemic-related or not. You can check it out here.)

Any little bit of calm and peace of mind can help soothe symptoms — and bit by bit, all those efforts add up to more control, reinforced stability, and a slowly, steadily increasing ability to cope. In the meantime, to curb some of those anxious and obsessive responses, add a bit of structure to your and your child’s routine with these ABCs from Dr. Claudia Hoyen, Director of Infection Control with Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital:

"Always wear your mask, Be aware of symptoms, Clean things frequently, including your hands, and Distance yourself physically, but not socially.”

That’s sound advice for any age, if you ask me.

P.S. Do you know of some great guided imagery for kids or teenagers that’s been helpful for you and your family that we’re not offering yet? Have you produced audio tracks of your own specifically for younger audiences? How about in Spanish? We want to hear about it! Health Journeys is always looking for quality, and now is the perfect time to expand our resources for the squeezers, grade schoolers, and middle school kids. If you know of some leads you think we should follow up on, drop us a line! Just leave a comment or get in touch with us here.