The beginning of the school year has arrived and there's so much to consider as parents are put in the position of making big decisions about their family’s health and their children’s education. Each individual and family must weigh so many factors to figure out what’s right; and let’s be clear, it’s obvious that this is not a one-fits-all situation! Maybe you don’t have a choice – finances are limited or you work full-time out of the home. Maybe your school district is giving you the choice of all-virtual or going into the classroom and you don’t know what’s right for you. Maybe you have a child entering a new school or multiple kids at different ages, with different needs and learning styles, and you don’t know how to balance them all. Maybe your child is graduating and you’re mourning the loss of everything special that they’ll be missing out on. You have to weigh these factors AND make this decision at a time when so much is unknown and everything feels uncertain. You may be feeling like you are STUCK, unable to figure out what to do.
So, why is it so hard to make decisions right now? There are biological and psychological forces behind this. Times of stress can trigger our natural instincts to fight, freeze or flee, impacting our decision-making process.
For instance, your natural inclination might be to “fight.” You’re gathering as much information as you can, researching homeschool curriculums and alternative schools, and you may even feel as if the school is your adversary, not your ally. You may experience tunnel-vision as you fight for what feels like the best option.
Or maybe you feel “frozen” in a sea of indecisiveness, you don’t know what to do and can’t even bring yourself to gather the information that you need, or to check the school portal to see which teacher you’ve been assigned.
Your last instinct may be to “flee,” to fantasize about renting a house far away in the mountains, or on the beach, where you can ride this out. Maybe you’ve even considered pulling your child out of school all together. You just don’t really want to think about the potential consequences of any of this.
The first step is recognizing these forces at play, acknowledge them without judgement and then finding a path forward. It’s important, but not always easy, to get out of your reactive/instinctual brain and to activate the logical part instead. Here are a few ideas to help:
Make a pros/cons list
Do some deep breathing
Practice mindfulness and meditation - A 2013 study found that 15 minutes of mindfulness meditation can help people make smarter choices.
Take action! Make a decision and sit with it, even if you’re unsure if it’s the right one
Refrain from judging yourself!! You’re doing the best that you can, with the information you have, in this very moment. You don’t have to be perfect or have all the right answers.
Once you’re feeling more grounded and ready to move forward, there are some additional factors to consider when making your decision about school and childcare:
Your family's resources, work schedules and ability to support your kids at home
Family member’s health concerns
Your family’s risk-tolerance level
Your child’s needs - their education, specialized support services & exceptional children’s programing, access to school lunches, social-emotional needs
How is your school handling safety, sanitation and social distancing?
How much tolerance (and flexibility) do you have for last minute changes to your schedule? Are you good at going with the flow or do you need a schedule that’s as likely as possible to stay consistent for the near future
Take comfort in knowing that you’re not in this alone and remember, you don’t have to be perfect or have all the right answers. You’re doing the best you can at this moment in time, and that’s all that your family needs.