This year, COVID-19 has cast a stress-ridden shadow on what is normally a very exciting and welcomed time for parents and kids alike, as they return to school after the summer holidays.
Despite the re-opening of schools being a positive step forward for the province’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, many families are experiencing understandable anxiety; including our own employees.
According to Leger Canada’s survey, 44 per cent of Canadians say their children are nervous and anxious about returning to school and 66 per cent of parents are worried about children going back to school at the end of the summer.
So, with that in mind, we decided to have some candid conversations with our employees to learn about their experiences home schooling this past spring and how they are now managing the new reality of back to school, while being mindful of their mental health, as well as their children’s, along the way.
What was your experience home-schooling your kids during the beginning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic?
“It was a bit hectic at first but once we settled into a routine it became more manageable. The level of support we had from my son’s school and his grade two teacher was exceptional.”Full-time working mom with one child, age seven.
“I enjoyed being able to work from home and see my kids during the day. The only unfortunate thing was that, because the online schooling was thrusted upon everyone, we found that it was lacking quite bit of structure and substance. As time passed, it seemed to get better but the first month was a mess.”Full-time working dad with two children, ages 13 and 16.
“Our experience with my daughter’s teacher was fantastic. The transition went relatively smoothly with a few bumps in the road of course—technology was not our friend—my then three-year-old figured out the Google slides app before my daughter or me.”Full-time working mom with two children, ages four and six.
What’s one thing you’ve learned from having your kids at home?
“The value of being around other kids their own age to interact and socialize with is a very important aspect of the educational delivery platform.”Full-time working dad, with three children ages 20, 12 and nine.
“We learned that in a stressful situation, family connection was more important for our family and our mental health then worrying about academics and keeping up with the Jones’s.”Full-time working mom with two children, ages four and six.
“One thing I’ve learned is that anything is possible. After I went through a cycle of feeling guilty for not giving my all to my kids during work hours and feeling equally guilty for not giving 100 per cent of me to work, I realized that with some planning and organization, I could make the most out of the situation.”Full-time working mom with two children, ages two and four.
How do you feel about your children going back to school in the fall?
“I will admit I am nervous, but I think everyone is. I am also excited for my son to be with his classmates again and be a part of that atmosphere again. There is so much more to school than just school work, and I think for my son to continue to be as engaged in learning as he currently is, he needs to be challenged and among peers.”Full-time working mom, one child age 11.
“I am really looking forward to [my son] going back to school in the fall. He needs both the social and physical activity at school. Being an only child at home for six months was not great for his mental health.”Full-time working mom with one child, age seven.
“We are grateful that we have the option for our kids to go back to school, I believe the social connection is missing from my daughter’s life as she is too young to maintain this via Facetime. Continuing to be confined to our house all day, while I work, and my kids are left to their own devices is just not sustainable for us any longer.”Full-time working mom with two children, ages four and six.
“Really uneasy. Its hard to know the right decision to make as everything feels wrong. And it doesn’t help that there’s so much conflicting information out there. I’m either being way too cautious and giving into the fear, or I’m being flippant about my child’s safety and sending her into an unknown situation.”Full-time working mom with two children, ages two and four.
“I’m a little apprehensive about the girls going back to school in the fall. The kids are excited to get back to somewhat of a back to school experience that they are used too. We are preparing as best we can, and I know the schools will do their part to make sure it’s safe for everyone.”Full-time working dad with two children, ages 13 and 16.
Have you decided on a back to school arrangement for your child this fall?
“Yes, they will be returning to school; other than my oldest since University has switched all courses to being offered online only as of this fall.”Full-time working dad, with three children ages 20, 12 and nine.
“For the first quarter she will be doing directed learning online with her class. We also arranged her to be with her best friend’s family to make a bubble, so they will be working together one day a week at least at our house on special projects. Also, she will be spending two days working with her Grandma who is a retired elementary teacher.”Full-time working mom with one child, age nine.
“Yes; my son will be returning to full time, in class learning.”Full-time working mom, one child age 11.
What are you doing to alleviate stress that you or your kids may be experiencing with your chosen school plan this fall?
“Funny enough the kids aren’t really that stressed as much as the parents are. I ask them daily if they are nervous or feeling any type of anxiety of going back to school and they reply with no. They are looking forward to seeing friends, familiar faces, teachers and being back in a class room environment.”Full-time working dad with two children, ages 13 and 16.
“My son is not stressed about returning to school; in fact, he is excited! I think he is more stressed over not being in a cohort with his friends. I try and keep up to date on the return-to-school plans to feel more prepared. We also do a lot of family activities where we just have fun. We try to forget about the stress of the current situation and do fun things; I have found that helps.”Full-time working mom with one child, age 11.
“We talk to [my son] a lot about his stress and worries and try to keep him busy. We have 10 minutes of worry time every night before bed. [He] uses a meditation app called Head Space to help him get to a calm place. We have use psychological counselling to help with his anxiety and provide strategies for my husband and me to support him”.Full-time working mom with one child, age seven.
If you could share advice with parents out there on finding balance while working from home with kids, what would you say?
“It’s not going to be perfect but try your best to stay patient with your kids. They’re often bored and miss their friends and just need extra time with their parents to help them through this difficult time.”Full-time working dad, with three children ages 20, 12 and nine.
“Be kind to yourself—its okay to lose it or not have everything together, perfect is what you make it. Take some time for yourself in a quite space and know that your “balance” is what works for you and your family, whatever that balance is.”Full-time working mom with two children, ages four and six.
“Balance doesn’t exist when you’re working from home and must keep your kids home as well. It just doesn’t. My advice would be to find the moments of peace where you can and ask for help from wherever you can get it.”Full-time working mom with two children, ages two and four.
“The biggest piece of advice I can provide is to create a routine similar to what you were used to when you were going to work. Take a break mid-morning and mid-afternoon to do something away from the desk. It could be something like going for a short walk or taking a mini-nap to feel refreshed when coming back to your computer.”Full-time working dad with two children, ages two and four.
What we’ve discovered from talking with our employees is that no situation or decision is the same, and everyone is truly doing their best when it comes to taking care of themselves and their families.
And on that note, we’ll leave you with a message from an Alberta Blue Cross® dad—“there is no right or wrong answer on if you choose to send your kids back to school again … make the decision that’s comfortable for you and your family.”
Read our latest media release for more mental health tips for return to school during COVID-19.