The ABC’s Amid COVID-19: How to Deal with Return-to-School Confusion Mindfully


August 5, 2020

After a spring of lackluster and exhausting Zoom school for her two kids, my neighbor is grappling with a dramatic decision.

Should she move to Canada?

It isn’t a theoretical question. My neighbor has Canadian citizenship and, at least for now, in Vancouver, her kids could physically go to school and resume a normal education. As my neighbor shared how isolated her daughter felt attending online school and how disengaged her son became, often secretly playing video games while in a virtual class, her exasperation was palpable.

“Online school in Los Angeles is no school,” she lamented.

With school districts and colleges across the country creating a patchwork of policies to resume in person, online or a mix of both in the fall, parents are caught in a haze of confusion and worry over the quality of their children’s education, how to find childcare, and whether to send their children back into classrooms.

Addressing Difficult Emotions Around Sending Your Child Back to School Amid COVID-19

How can parents manage the emotional roller coaster of the recent challenges with COVID-19 and how it will impact the upcoming school year? 

A recent Axios poll found that 71% of parents feel it would be risky to send kids back into classrooms. And, yet, not having children in physical classrooms presents myriad problems for parents. 

You don’t have to face these challenges alone. Register for one of our upcoming webinars How Parents and Kids Can Ace Returning to School With Mindfulness

Parents working outside the home need to scramble to find childcare. Those working from home need to juggle work alongside parenting. All of it threatens the U.S. economy’s shaky recovery, making job security more tenuous for many families.

It’s not easy to stay grounded when the ground beneath you continually shifts. Many schools have yet to decide how to proceed in the fall, and decisions made now could still get reversed as COVID-19 cases climb or recede.

The perspectives and practices of mindfulness can’t erase the difficulties parents face. But like a good school counselor, they can offer guidance in navigating back-to-school confusion.

What Does Returning to School Look Like for Kids Amid a Pandemic? How to Prepare Your Family for The Upcoming School Year

How Practicing Open-Mindedness Can Help You Navigate Current Challenges 

One of the mindful perspectives I noticed my neighbor applying was open-mindedness. 

She hadn’t decided yet to move to Canada. Instead, she was patiently considering her options, holding them to the light like a chemistry beaker so she could see the contents more clearly. 

Open-mindedness gives us the mental flexibility to see problems from different angles. And, as a result, it often births solutions that are harder to see in the fog of fear and worry.

Tune in and learn how to build the skills to manage the upcoming challenges by registering for a live, interactive 14-minute Mindful Daily!

Of course, it’s difficult to be open-minded if you’re overrun with fear and worry. Here, too, mindfulness is a helpful guide.

Fear and worry have their own internal handwriting, and when we bring our attention to how they feel, we learn to read them more clearly.

Try This Mindfulness Exercise to Practice Keeping an Open-Mind

  • Pause, and take a breath and then think of your child heading off to school either online or in-person. What do you notice arising?
  • Do you feel a queasiness in your gut? Do images appear in your mind? Or do you notice a running commentary of negativity sounding in the space between your ears?
  • Soften into the sensations and mental activity. Give them permission to be there while kindly saying to yourself: “This is what fear, worry, or confusion feels like.”

Becoming intimate with fear, worry or confusion isn’t pleasant. But it’s productive. Once you allow difficult emotions or mental states to rise and fall within your awareness; clarity and sometimes calm can emerge. And, if not, at least you will have loosened the grip of them long enough to invite some ease into your body and mind.

Prepare yourself for the difficult emotions ahead with our Difficult Emotions Collection of on-demand content

You might also find it easier to decide what to do next, whether that’s brainstorming possible ways to cope with what will likely be a challenging school year for everyone or to just go for a walk. 

Additional Resources to Support You as the School Year Approaches

Along with practicing mindfulness, there are practical resources that might be helpful. Here are a few to help you and your family manage the ABCs amid COVID-19.

We’re here to support you during this uncertain time. Learn coping skills and practical communication methods in one of upcoming webinars How Parents and Kids Can Ace Returning to School With Mindfulness

Written by Kelly Barron