As the summer winds down, parents and children look ahead to perhaps the most unusual "back to school" year of our lifetimes.
The start of a new school year brings a mixture of excitement and anxiety for families. Each school year is a new milestone in our children's lives. A different teacher, a new curriculum, perhaps a new school, are all part of growing up, but there are some constants to help with those transitions. Picking out clothes the night before, packing lunches, and organizing school supplies are all small steps that can make a big impact on everyone's well-being once the school year kicks off.
With many of those pre-pandemic routines turned upside down, families need to go back to the proverbial drawing board to create a plan that works best for parents and children alike. The task may seem daunting but, to take a cue from Dr. Henry, we can still “stand together by staying apart.” All families with school-age kids are facing this struggle and they do not need to do this work alone. For working parents still managing jobs from home or preparing to return to offices, establishing a new "normal" becomes even more challenging.
Where do we begin? This list provides a great starting point to address and normalize the anxiety many are experiencing as they return to work. The questions and strategies can also easily be applied or edited for children preparing for the school year. As parents, our natural instinct may be to shield our children from feelings of fear or anxiety. While we don’t want to live with those emotions constantly, creating an environment where anxiety is acknowledged allows children to cope with their feelings in a healthy way. The 2015 film “Inside Out” brings this topic to light in typical Pixar-fashion with lots of humour, paired with deeper moments that speak to any age. A young girl’s emotions are represented by a host of characters, with “Joy” taking center stage early on, only to learn later that sometimes “Sadness” needs to take the lead. Part of growing up is learning to navigate the range of emotions and that work doesn’t stop when we reach adulthood.
Working in a high-pressure legal field comes with its own unique stressors and challenges. As lawyers, we often operate under the edict of not asking questions we don’t already have the answers to, but that mantra doesn’t fit in the COVID-19 landscape. We have many questions and the answers are murky at best. We rely on precedence to guide casework, but in “unprecedented times,” how do we unpack this case?
Looking at COVID-19 as a whole is too big of an issue to tackle. We have to break it down to terms that are familiar. Going back to school and work, whether coming from a long vacation or from months of quarantine, can still be considered a transition. To help with that, we are hosting a virtual workshop centered around navigating transitions and how best to cope with them professionally and personally -- visit our events page for more details.
There will be days when we feel motivated and accomplished, checking off our to-do’s at rapid speed at work and helping kids with homework without breaking a sweat. There will also be days dominated by worry and stress when the lines between work and school and life are so blurred we can’t seem to find our footing. Celebrate the joyous moments, be patient with yourself in the anxious ones. Actively seek resources to fill your cup. Don’t be afraid to be honest; both strong and vulnerable around your kids. Remember you are modeling that it is ok to be uncertain and that you are all there to support each other. Our network is full of professionals in similar circumstances. Virtual may be the mode of communication, but the people we connect with on the other end are real and the support we exchange is genuine.