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  • Writer's pictureCathy Keller

How to Cope with Back to School, Corona Style

Updated: Oct 5, 2021

I have been avoiding almost all marketing for my tutoring services since COVID-19 hit. I don't want to be a "Covid Profiteer," when so many families are struggling because of illness, job loss, or the inequities COVID-19 has exacerbated. I myself have been kind of an emotional wreck because I'm so distraught at how much the country is suffering from COVID-19, the continued fight for racial justice after the death of George Floyd and others, and because I'm stressed about protecting my 76 and 80 year old parents who are both very high risk.

After much deliberation, I've decided the best thing I can do is to try to share what I DO know as frequently as possible for no charge. If parents still want more help for their students or students want a little one-on-one support, I will continue to offer one-on-one tutoring services and connect them with the best teachers I know.

I am in knots about the inequality that "learning pods" will create. As always, families of means will make sure their kids get what they think they need, and students whose families don't have the same resources will slide.

With that in mind, I am going to be offering some advice on how to help students be successful while working from home (if that's what they're doing) or to navigate the great unknown that is school during a global pandemic.

As my school goes back to in-person learning in a remote model next week, I found this article from the New York Times full of very helpful advice to cope with all of the emotions involved with the decisions we have had to face as parents (and as teachers).

My biggest takeaway from the article was to accept the decisions you've made and accept that there will be uncertainty going forward. We don't have uncertainty, and that is really hard, so we're going to have to sit with that. To cope with all of the anxiety that uncertainty causes, your goal isn't to turn off the feelings, but to compartmentalize them a bit. We can't spend all day worrying about it (believe me, I've tried!), but the psychiatrist who wrote the article gave some really helpful advice about how to practice "defusion:"

"The goal is to avoid being “hooked” by any one thought or feeling, and instead to view yourself as an observer of your mind. You can imagine that your thoughts are like leaves, floating down a stream, or like plates of sushi, moving along a conveyor belt. When your mind starts moving into the slippery slope of unproductive worries, try naming them: “There goes my mind again.” This highlights the difference between “having a thought” and “buying a thought.” When unproductive worries strike, you don’t have to go down that rabbit hole of trying to disprove them or reassure yourself, you can just let them be. It’s not bad feelings or thoughts that are the problem. It’s what we do with them that causes more suffering."

This is similar to dealing with thoughts in a meditation practice and can really help that feeling of spiraling worry that can derail people. I suggest parents give it a try for themselves AND talk to your children about it in an age-appropriate way. Recognize that your children have worries about the school year, talk with them about their worries, help them cope with it, and then model how this strategy might sound in your own brain. Basically speak your thoughts out loud and explain how you'll avoid the anxious thought spiral by labeling your thought without following it down the rabbit hole.

I'll talk more about active listening in my next post, so check back!

You can read the full story, with more helpful ideas


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