On August 16th, Saint Johns County students return to school for the 2021-2022 school year. For some, this will be a return to in-person learning for the first time in over a year and a half. For the rest, it will be a return to school without mandatory masking, daily temperature checks, and social distancing. For all, it will be a welcome and much-anticipated return to normal. But after living through a year and a half of tremendous uncertainty, what will this transition really look like for our children and ourselves?
As we feel the excitement of getting back to our routine, the traumatic impact of the past year on our students, families, and teachers will linger. COVID created a pervasive and sustained disruption to our way of life, threatening our stability, our security, our health, and our peace of mind. Transitioning from a year of “survival mode” back into “performance mode” is going to have its own set of challenges.
If you notice that your student is apprehensive about returning to school, acknowledge that it is reasonable for them to feel that way. Reassure them that the mitigation efforts that had been in place last year-such as masking and social distancing-are no longer required this new school year and that their experience will be different. Disruption to their routine is still possible due to exposures and quarantines, however, the day-to-day school experience will be more similar to years past, prior to COVID.
For parents transitioning into the reality of sustained remote working, the novelty and appreciation of telework may have subsided by now. If you notice that you are struggling with low energy, boredom, isolation, or feelings of hopelessness, acknowledge that it is reasonable to feel that way. Many of us are energized by in-person interactions and we enjoy the support and camaraderie of our coworkers. Working from home is a much different experience that can deplete us over time.
Lastly, please be kind to our teachers. A short 8-week summer break is not enough time to recharge and recover from what has been asked of them this past school year. Our educators have pulled off the impossible; they have instructed our students both in-person and online while putting themselves in harm’s way to keep our schools open. They have juggled their own families and their own children’s educational needs while managing their personal health risks during a global pandemic. Acknowledge that it is reasonable that they are tired.
For each and every member of our community, I encourage compassion, understanding, and kindness. Although it feels that the worst is behind us as we return to school this fall, the lasting effects of surviving a very difficult time in our history will stay with us. Giving ourselves and our neighbors the space and grace to recover and heal will serve us all. Together, we can build stronger families, schools, and communities in our beautiful northern Saint Johns.
Good Mental Health, LLC is a counseling and coaching practice located in St. Johns, Florida, offering individual and family counseling to adolescents and adults. 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 please visit GoodMentalHealthllc.com.
This article also appeared in the August 2021 issue of St. Johns Magazine.