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6 Simple Back-to-School Tips to Protect Your Mental Health

After a hot and hectic summer, it’s time for students to head back to school. If thoughts of the previous school year have you breaking out in a sweat, you’re not alone. Parents and students all over the country are dealing with the challenge of returning to school amid inconsistent masking requirements, blended learning, and rising cases of the COVID delta variant.

You can’t predict or completely prepare for what this school year may have in store for you and your children, but there are simple things you can do to protect your mental health. Here are six simple tips to help keep you both healthy and sane throughout the upcoming school year.

1. Don’t expect everything to go smoothly.

Even the best-laid plans have a way of going up in smoke, so the best thing you can do going into the 2021-22 school year is expect the unexpected. If you go into the school year expecting your district’s COVID procedures to be executed flawlessly, you’re just setting yourself up for a lot of stress and frustration. Be ready to adapt to changes throughout the school year and, when something comes up, talk to your kids to help them understand what’s happening and work through it. Pick up a few pointers from Family Talk, a helpful guide written by retired family therapist Christy Monson.

2. Learn how to listen.

As a parent, it’s tempting to try to take control of every situation. While it may seem like this is the best way to keep your kids safe, you may be neglecting the most important part of the equation – your kids. If you’re constantly worried about following a plan or making things perfect, your kids will learn to be anxious for the same reasons. Instead, slow down and learn how to listen. Encourage your kids to share their thoughts and feelings with you and find someone you feel comfortable sharing your own feelings with. And remember, even Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts sometimes – just know that your feelings matter, and sometimes taking them out is the best thing you can do.

3. Stay on top of school communication.

Every school district represents a symbiotic relationship between parents, teachers, and school administrators. You all rely on each other to do your parts to keep things running smoothly, so communication is key. As much as it may pain you to do so, read those emails you get from the principal or from your child’s teacher and stay up-to-date on local COVID protocols as much as you can.

4. Be patient with your kids and with your school.

Though everyone’s experience of the pandemic is unique, we all heard the same message over and over again: we’re all in this together. Every parent wants what’s best for their child, but all children are equally deserving of quality education. Know that your school is doing everything they can to make sure that happens, so cut them a little slack. It’s also important to be patient with your kids as they adjust to an ever-changing school environment. Be available to talk or to listen and seek the same support for yourself when you need it.

5. Do what’s necessary to keep yourself healthy.

It should go without saying that you can’t help others if you’re falling apart yourself, but sometimes we need to be reminded. The Magic of You serves as a reminder that we’re all worthy of love and acceptance, even when we struggle. Making self-care a priority is the best way to keep yourself healthy and strong, so make time to rest and relax. Make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep, fuel your body with a healthy and balanced diet, and get out and exercise a few times a week.

6. Seek outside help and support when you need it.

As hard as we may try, you can’t do it all yourself – we all need help from time to time. If you’re struggling with stress and anxiety as the school year approaches, reach out to a trusted friend or family member for support. Join a local support group for parents or create one of your own. You might even consider online counseling to get focused, personalized support from the comfort of your own home.

The upcoming school year is bound to be full of challenges, so keep your wits about you and be prepared to make adjustments. The tips above will help you stay centered as you guide your child through the back-to-school process.

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