• Joey Miller

Back to School & Back Against the Wall

Even with clear and specific direction from teachers and school administrators, parents are struggling to keep up with the deluge of emails  and the need for massive planning and organization at home.

According to a recent (and very disturbing) publication by the CDC , during late June 2020, 40% of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance use—and even elevated suicidal tendencies—all associated with COVID-19. Anxieties, frustrations, loneliness, depression, and exhaustion have reached all-time highs as patience and tolerance have hit all-time lows. Despite many parents’ hope that the fall would usher in a period of greater normalcy and routine, current school situations have only exacerbated their stress and responsibility levels. The reprieve is not coming, and parents—whose shoulders were already weighed down—are now bracing for their children’s return to remote or hybrid learning.


Even with clear and specific direction from teachers and school administrators, parents are struggling to keep up with the deluge of emails and the need for massive planning and organization at home.

Not all families have the capacity for separate, private, and quiet spaces for multiple users simultaneously. Working out of a closet or on a bed was only a temporary fix last spring when suddenly needing to shelter in place. There remains an unequal distribution of resources—despite schools’ best efforts, still not everyone has a laptop or internet service for use at home. Families with more financial resources have the option to hire academic support; families with less don’t. And, not all parents are able to work from home, a problem that disproportionately affects Blacks and Latinas, adding the extra burden of finding and paying for in-home childcare during work hours.

Asynchronous schedules pose another problem. Even for parents with one child, it takes effort to juggle work against school schedules. Parents with more than one child in school who need assistance with technology face even greater challenges when trying to oversee the studies of two, three, or more different children simultaneously. This situation is also complex for parents whose children are on a hybrid learning schedule, attending class on different days and times.

Remote learning can be challenging to maintain even for the most gifted students, much less kids with special needs, such as ADHD, auditory processing disorders, and learning disabilities. Most parents are becoming increasingly concerned their children are going to fall behind academically, yet simultaneously feel helpless to better support them.

Despite all of the many challenges, there are ways to maintain your sanity and support your children:

  • Put yourself first. This isn’t always obvious as most parents tend to put their children’s needs and wants before their own. You will get back to that, but not just yet. You’re running the entire show right now, so focus on addressing your immediate needs as that will help ensure you have the stamina to continue.

  • Don’t scrimp on sleep. It’s a basic need and something you and your children require. Resist the urge to burn the candle at both ends. Set up a bedtime routine and aim for at least 6-7 hours of sleep every night. You will run more efficiently with daily rest.

  • Prioritize. You can’t always plan or predict, but you can prioritize. Not everything will get done when you want it to—or at all—so let some go. Focus on the assignments, responsibilities, and tasks that are time-sensitive and necessary to keep everyone and everything moving forward. All else can wait.

  • Create simple schedules everyone can follow. Structure and predictability are beneficial to productivity. Schedules will also help set clear expectations surrounding school and work hours and inevitable sharing of resources (e.g., computer time, who is using the kitchen table as a work station, and when).

  • Pace yourself and your children. Schedule and adhere to regular and frequent breaks to have a snack, get up and move, and get outside, even if only for 5-10 minutes at a time. Everyone needs these things to refresh and reset.

  • Respect each other’s space. No matter how tight you are on room, everyone needs his or her cornereven if you have to rotate.

  • Practice apology and forgiveness when tempers get short. Lashing out, knee-jerk and overreactions (by parents and children alike) are inevitable with everyone stuck at home with too many distractions and high stress levels. No one is at their best right now, but remember, everyone is trying their best. We all get tired, irritable, upset, and angry from time to time. Acknowledge and own your missteps when they happen. Even if the homework doesn’t all get done, there is still learning occurring as you teach important lessons about interpersonal responsibility.

  • Communicate with your child’s teacher. Reach out when you have concerns or see your child struggling. Teachers can’t always see the scope of each student’s experience with only a screen view access. Your child’s teacher, however, may be able to help by offering concrete ideas, suggestions, or even modified assignments.

  • Laugh. This is going to be a real challenge on days when the tears start to flow from frustration, depression, or sheer exhaustion, but it’s an important goal. There are still people or things in your life that have the power to make you laugh. Seek them out, and share them with your family.

  • Remember, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.With your entire family on top of you for as far as you can see, this is true literally as well as figuratively. Connect with other parents in your community to share tips and frustrations. If necessary, seek professional help. Most therapists are a phone or Zoom call away.

In some ways, this is a time when we are all going back to school as we are continually having to learn and adapt to new ways of living and being. In so doing, we are enhancing cooperation, and developing better interpersonal, organizational, and technological skills that will actually help us thrive when we’re able to get back into the world again. And, we are modeling for our children that learning truly can be lifelong.

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Please call Wellsprings Health Associates at 312-573-0900.

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Joey Miller, MSW, LCSW
Wellsprings Health Associates

© 2020 by Joey Miller, MSW, LCSW

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