Back-to-School: The New, New Year
by Alissa Klugh, MS, LPC, CMHIMP
This time of year has been hectic for as long back as I can remember. As a child, I recall preparing for my school year by anticipating which classroom teacher I would have, signing up for sports and activities, and watching the days slowly get shorter, as the summer rolled to a close.
This year is no different, when you think about it: We're still preparing for the upcoming school year, as children, adolescents, teachers, administrators, parents, etc... yet, at the same time, it's incredibly changed from years past.
What will school really look like? Will my kids be safe? Will the teachers be able to teach adequately? What about the safety of the teachers and staff? Is anyone really going to learn this year? Should I send my child to school? Can I really make sure they're learning, if they're home with me?
So many questions. So little the answers: "Maybes." And the old "it'll be this way, if this happens, and that way if that happens." So many unknowns.
Guess what? Humans don't do well with the unknown. We get anxious. Our anxiety bleeds onto others. Then, everyone is anxious. Have you ever felt someone else's anxiety? What do you do in those cases? Do you absorb it; take it on? Do you deflect it; shut down? Although this has been a difficult interaction between humans for thousands of years, we didn't live back then. We are living now. And now is different.
I'd love to sit back and share with you the ways to get yourself back into the swing of the school year, like I did, in another blog. But what I will do for you instead is this: I will be honest with you about the state of our being and mental health.
If you want to survive this, or any change, you must embrace it. Recognize what is truly in your power and relinquish what you cannot control. And what a great lesson to teach your children: Life is not predictable. The only thing we can count on consistently in our lives is change.
Now, is your third grader going to understand this concept? No, of course not. But what they will understand is that it is important for us to listen to and respect those who are in decision-making positions: the principals, the teachers, the administration. Help our children see that we're putting our trust into their judgement about how this school year will go. And you know what? if there is a mistake made on the way that things are done, teach our children grace. Help them see that mistakes are a part of life. Because guess what? We all make them.
It's all about how we recoil and try again, after the mistake has been made. Let's stop and think about what we have all been through with this horrible, global pandemic; it will provide you with so much more space to provide the grace to others (and yourself) in decision-making, mistake-making, and understanding. We all experience these situations differently. We all come from a different perspective. We will make mistakes and not understand why someone else made a decision; maybe it was you who made the poor decision. It happens. Think of it in the terms of Brene Brown's quote: "I commit to practicing empathy and self-compassion, screwing it up, and circling back" again.
Think of this upcoming year as a novel, with change being something that is likely to happen. Some things... we cannot prepare for. We just have to yell "plot twist," and see how we can move forward with the grace and space we all deserve.
If you can teach even an ounce of that to your children this year, you will be ahead of the game (and likely give them one of the most valuable lessons they can learn): change is inevitable, and that's okay.