One of the greatest lessons we have been forced to learn is how to live with uncertainty. In fact, in spiritual traditions, particularly Buddhism, there is wisdom found in recognizing the ever-changing, uncertainty of life.
COVID-19 has created an upswing of reminders that life changes. Summer plans have been changed or canceled, and the idea of returning to school online or in person is debated.
As parents, we can get caught up in our own anxiety with some disregard for our children.
The health and safety of our children, our families, and their teachers is of upmost importance. Science should lead decisions, and risks should be carefully weighed. In a perfect world, distance learning would not increase the achievement gap and equitable internet access would exist.
Our children may not be as concerned with these issues. Their experience may be based more on the present moment of missing friends, sports, socializing, etc. Yet, as many teachers have pointed out, there won’t be much socialization under COVID-19 school restrictions for in-person instruction.
The most important way to ease children’s anxiety surrounding the upcoming school year is to talk to them. If their school is reopening for in-person instruction, how do they feel about it? As a family, you have the right to make a decision and continue full distance learning or not.
Richard Weissbourd, of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, offers the following advice:
- Make developmentally informed decisions about what children need to know and understand in order to feel safe.
- Focus on creating an environment where children can ask the questions that matter to them.
- Reassure children they are going to be safe and that you as their caregiver will also be taking steps to ensure that you stay safe as well.
- Encourage compassion for vulnerable people and expanding your child’s circle of concern.
- Avoid stigmatization by emphasizing that getting sick is part of being human and we all need to help each other feel safe.
Some school districts have made their decisions, whereas others are still weighing options. Some states, such as California, have offered strict guidelines.
It is a great lesson our children are learning to be comfortable with uncertainty.