Parents are currently facing one of the most difficult decisions of their parenting careers: how to safely return their children to school during a global health crisis.
Several options have been presented for the students of St. John’s County including returning to in-person school 5 days per week, distance learning through their home schools, or various homeschooling options, including virtual school programming. Each option brings both pros and cons as parents wrestle with making the best possible decision for their family.
A few points to consider while navigating this difficult time:
The “right answer” does not exist.
Because we are still so early in this pandemic, data does not exist which can provide concrete guidance as to the outcome of our current choices. We do know that strong opinions exist on all sides and that it is impossible to determine what the “right” or “wrong” answer may ultimately be. Let’s recognize that everyone is doing their best with the information we have. We harm each other by being critical and judgemental of each other’s choices. We protect each other and our relationships when we remain respectful and supportive of each other, even when someone holds a belief or makes a choice that doesn’t align with our own.
Physical, mental, and emotional safety is key.
As explained by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, before we can achieve higher levels of functioning, first our basic needs for safety and survival must be met. Parents, educators, and our community at large can reinforce a commitment to basic safety by promoting and modeling the behaviors suggested by CDC health guidelines. I urge you to approach the health guidelines not as an inconvenience or personal burden, but as a choice you are deliberately making to keep yourself and our community safe. Mask wearing and social distancing are visual cues that we care for each other and for ourselves. Our courteous behavior allows those around us to feel safe physically, mentally, and emotionally so that we can focus on higher-level functioning such as learning. As parents model these courteous behaviors for our children, our children will be more likely to imitate those behaviors themselves, even when they are away from us at school.
Each child is different, and their individual needs are different.
What may be appropriate and necessary for one child to be successful could be the exact opposite for a different child. Consider your child’s learning style, their level of adaptability and tolerance for change, and their overall level of anxiety. A child who thrives on social interaction may struggle on distance learning, while a child who experiences anxiety in the midst of change may struggle in the current school environment. The more confident we are as parents, and the more kind and compassionate we are to ourselves and others will set the stage for how our children interact with each other.
Let’s be supportive of our back-to-schoolers. The brick and mortars, the distance-learners, the homeschoolers, and the virtual learners. Let’s also be kind and supportive of each other because human beings were built with resiliency. We can do hard things, especially when we do it together.
Good Mental Health, LLC is a counseling and coaching practice located in St. Johns, Florida, offering individual, couple, and family counseling. With sessions available face-to-face and online, we hope to provide the tools and skills necessary to heal past wounds, grow healthy relationships, and build strong families. For more information, read more about us at GoodMentalHealthLLC.com.
This article also appeared in the August 2020 issue of Saint Johns Magazine.