5 Methods For Dad and mom to Handle Again-to-College Anxiousness
Can we pause for a moment and acknowledge something? Until a few weeks ago we were on the way to a seemingly “normal” school year, at least more normal than what we have experienced in the past 18 months. If you are like me and my wife, we would quietly say Hallelujah every day.
Thanks to the Delta variant, COVID-19 began to skyrocket again and now “Back-to-School” could look more like “Back-to-Homeschool” for many families. Or, if not, at least the sense of “normalcy” you thought you would get is gone or lurching like a crowded clown car on the edge of the cliff.
With all this uncertainty and change, there is a lot of fear. Even if you haven’t written a book on clinical anxiety like me, you are probably concerned – especially since you didn’t really see this coming. I want to share with you some tips on how to deal with this fear, as well as some practical ways to move forward this school year.
1. Admit that you cannot be perfect.
Last year my 5 year old daughter started the year in virtual kindergarten. Since we had never raised a child in school before, we were already stressed. Furthermore, we had to do all of this without ever meeting their teacher. Needless to say, we were a wreck. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do everything right, meet every deadline, let my daughter log in on every Zoom call and never be late. Guess: It wasn’t possible. We quickly learned that we couldn’t “nail” every minute of the day, especially since we were working remotely. Once we gave ourselves permission to be imperfect, our stress levels dropped significantly.
I am here to tell you that you don’t have to be and you can’t be perfect either. Even if we didn’t make every Zoom call and didn’t complete every virtual task, our daughter completed kindergarten at or above the expected level. It will be fine.
2. Realize that you cannot control everything.
As someone diagnosed with anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder, one of my goals is to be in control; sometimes all i can think about My disorder tells me that it can be me. Reality tells me that I can’t be. Let me summarize some of the best advice I have ever received: You are unable to control everything. (I paid a lot of money for it, but I’m giving it to you for free.) You can’t control if someone in your child’s class gets COVID-19 or if their mother, father, brother, sister, or dog tests positive. (If you can find a way to do this, let me know.) I ask for your and your child’s sake to live in this freedom. Your sanity will be much more, well, healthy when you do this. There’s no point in reaching for something that can never be in your hands.
3. Take the easy profits.
There’s a song in Frozen 2 that I think is one of the deepest and most profound Disney songs ever written. It’s called “The Next Right Thing”. Friend, sometimes that’s all you can do. Sometimes that’s all you should be doing. When life and school get out of hand, focus on what you can control. Can you invite your child to the first Zoom session? Big! Not sure about the afternoon? Then don’t be sure about the afternoon. Can you take your child to school today? Big! Not sure about tomorrow? Then be unsure tomorrow. Take a series of small steps. Do the next right thing, one thing at a time.
4. Invest in yourself.
I remember one morning when we wanted to miss my daughter’s first Zoom session of the day because we couldn’t find her iPad. I got hectic and hectic. When we found it we were late and I hurried to let them log in. Then she looked up at me and said, “Daddy, you’re making me nervous.” Talk about a shot in the heart. Here’s the thing, fear, while genetic, can also be learned. The more nervous and anxious you are, the more nervous and anxious your child will become. Dear parents, please take some time for yourself. Find a relaxation that relaxes you and puts you in the right mood. Maybe that’s an early morning walk or a massage (yes, please!) Once a month. I’ve learned that in order to address my deeper emotional problems, I must address the physical ones first. Your mental wellbeing is important – invest in it.
5. Find fellowship.
Look, a lot of research has shown that we are not meant to live life alone. I also don’t think we’re meant for parents alone. What I mean is that we need others to help us when we feel weak. It’s okay to be weak, by the way. My wife and I have found a close fellowship in our church group. Just last week we struggled to find rest and sanity while we were sick (not with COVID). Within minutes of sending an SOS text message to our group asking if someone could pick up the kids, they were on our doorstep. I’m not going to suggest that this type of response is possible or doable for everyone, but you can certainly invest in a community that can help you shoulder the burden. Know that asking for help is okay.
The theme for almost two years has been the longing for earlier times. You and me both Until then, however, we need to learn some new skills. I’m here to tell you that you are not alone in learning them.
Think of it this way: This is your moment to “walk to school in both directions in the snow”. You can and will get through this. And boy will you have a story to tell? Go on.
Jonathon M. Seidl (Jon) is the author of Finding Rest: A Survivor’s Guide to Navigating the Valleys of Anxiety, Faith, and Life (September 28). He lives in Dallas with his wife and two children. Visit him at jonseidl.com and follow him on Twitter and Instagram @jonseidl.