5 Tips For Coping With The Anxiety of Your Kids Returning to School

back to school

A breast cancer diagnosis and treatment causes many fears and worries for a mom and the whole family. Now families are facing back to school during a global pandemic, which can add significantly more stress at an already stressful time. However, school is an important part of your child’s life and the teachers and other children can help provide stability, support and routine at a time of change at home. These tips and strategies can help you navigate this transition safely as a family.

1. Control what you CAN control instead of focusing on what you CANNOT control

Our fears, worries and anxiety can grow when we think of all the millions of things that we CANNOT control – such as will all the other kids at school wear masks, wash hands regularly, and will the school maintain recommended distancing and new cleaning and disinfecting protocols….? But by adjusting our focus and energy on what we CAN control, we can create a purposeful plan for our family. This list of what we can control includes wearing our masks, increasing our own hand washing regularly, cleaning and disinfecting highly touched objects/areas, social distancing whenever possible, and changing out of clothes you wear outside the home, and washing them as soon as you return home.

2. Shrink your bubble

Our bubbles have been keeping us safe through this pandemic. Even if you have begun to expand your bubble, with back to school exposing kids and parents to more and more people beyond your bubble, you may consider reducing your risks by seeing even less people.

3. Practice with masks

Parents, kids and extended family all need to make friends with their masks. The more time you and your family spend finding the right mask, getting comfortable and wearing your masks, the greater you reduce your risk of contracting a virus. Check out masks4Canada.org for fun mask-focused activities and info.

Mom’s who are in treatment may want to consider wearing masks, even just a lightweight disposable medical mask, throughout the day whether inside or outside. This added protection throughout the initial weeks of back to school will reduce your overall risk of coming into contact with any virus, protecting your immune system.

4. Follow the 4 P’s

Play helps kids explore masks in a non-threatening way. Practice often so kids can master wearing masks effectively and comfortably. Prepare/preparation for what to expect at school, and what your expectations are as parents for your kids through the back to school period. This helps kids know what will be happening. Patience is needed at all times. These are new experiences, both cancer treatment and pandemic protocols such as masks, distancing and increased handwashing and cleaning. Be patient – kids can do this and be and feel safe and successful with back to school, all while protecting mom from additional germs and viruses.

5. Accept help/ask for help

There is a lot going on when in active treatment, and even more so with back to school during a pandemic. If you need to rest after treatment, or are facing general fatigue, try not to be “supermom” and take on too much. Ask for and/or accept help from family and friends with some daily routines, such as school drop off/pick up, homework supports and laundry. If possible, welcome planned meal trains or assistance with cooking in your home so you can rest. Asking for and accepting help will allow you to cope better and conserve your energy for the important times together as a family.

Want to see what other moms in the Rethink community are doing for back to school? Click here.

Helping Kids Cope

Morgan Livingstone MA CCLS CIIT is a Certified Child Life Specialist and Certified International Infant Massage Trainer, whose work is focused on helping children and families cope with illness, trauma, loss and difficult life experiences. Morgan is especially passionate about helping kids cope when mom is diagnosed with breast cancer. She has written handbooks for parents about  talking to kids about breast cancer and provided child life support sessions in family homes and support groups for kids whose mother has cancer. Since COVID-19, Morgan has been working with children and families via video meetings and managing to educate, entertain and feed her own two kids, dog and busy working husband while remaining in her small two-story, two-bedroom condo in downtown Toronto. “We keep busy with crafts and lots of cooking, baking and exercise, and are loving our family movie nights where we have been watching ALL the Marvel movies in chronological order!”

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