“It’s normal to feel anxious about sending your kids back to school,” says registered child and mental health counsellor Sarah Hagar.
Last week, B.C.’s Education Minister Rob Fleming announced a tentative plan to re-open district schools to in-class learning. The first day of class is slated for September 8.
To help parents talk through their worries brought on by COVID-19, Hagar has partnered with the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust and the Coastal Family Resource Coalition to offer free parent support sessions via phone, online platforms or even in-person. The best way to initiate an appointment is to visit the ‘West Coast Children’s Resilience Initiative’ Facebook page or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I’m not giving any blanket advice. It’s very personalized to what people are experiencing. It’s very individualize support,” said Hagar. “I don’t think there is a one sized fits all answer for parenting.”
She said a lot of anxiety stems from not knowing what is going on. The mother of three suggests having regular conversations about boundaries related to the coronavirus to cultivate routines.
“It’s about talking through it and really thinking through it and planning. Having a plan can really decrease the anxiety,” notes Hagar.
For example, she talks to her own children about not sharing snacks because of germs and uses the keyword ‘distance’ when they’re out in public spaces to cue them on to giving people more space.
Practicing self-care and involving your kids in activities that bring personal joy, notes Hagar, will help build resiliency or “collectively bounce forward” as she likes to put it.
“I believe in the importance of caring for the caregiver. That’s when I do my best is when I feel supported. I think the work of caring for and raising children is super hard. It’s the most difficult choice ever. You’re always balancing your needs and the needs of others,” she said.
Living in a smaller community, Hagar adds, makes the stresses a little easier to deal with.
“We are fortunate. Urban kids will talk about [COVID-19] a lot different than rural kids,” she said.