As summer slowly comes to an end, it’s an appropriate time to tackle a very important and very unexplored topic – the effect that the back-to-school season has on moms and their well-being. This transition is made even more difficult by COVID-19 and the significant increase in time that children and their parents have shared over the past year and a half. In this blog, we’ll provide some info about how the pandemic has affected mothers and their home life, and how to maintain wellness when the kids go back to school.
According to research scientist María Prados (as quoted in this article), women carry an increasingly heavier load than men when it comes to providing childcare and educational support for children during the pandemic – even while they’re working. With remote learning and social distancing, parental responsibilities were heightened, with the majority of the work falling on mothers. Not only did they step into the role of educator, but they had to compensate for the lack of social interaction their kids had with other children through increased time and attention. All this while still having to work and maintain other responsibilities is an incredible challenge.
In the past year, psychological stress has also disproportionately impacted women with children. Through her research, Prados found that the pandemic was associated with even greater feelings of depression and anxiety among mothers. Wellness, self-care, and healthy coping mechanisms are therefore crucial during this time. As another period of uncertainty and change approaches, mental and physical wellness must be a priority – both for ourselves and for the benefit of those around us.
Transitioning into the school year
It is completely normal and valid to experience stress, anxiety, or sadness as the school year nears. A survey mentioned in this article polled members of families and found that 63% said the mom has the hardest time with the first day of school. Once accustomed to the summer schedule, switching to something new can be overwhelming. Plus, it can be hard to let the kids go; anxiety can manifest through intensified fears for the child’s safety and well-being. But, that can also be indicative of broader feelings of loss of control, especially after all the uncertainty experienced during the pandemic.
However, it’s important to remember that kids pick up on others’ energy and body language. Try your best to stay calm and reassuring throughout the transition – it’s likely your children also feel some worry about things changing, so a calm voice and relaxed face and body indicate to them that they are safe and things will be okay. It’s also helpful to remember that it’s not the parents’ job to remove all stressors for their children or prevent them from experiencing any negative emotions. Instead, the emphasis should be placed on helping kids recognize and understand what they’re feeling, communicating those out loud, and finding productive ways to cope with their situations.
To prepare both yourself and your kids for the changing daily routine, you can start transitioning before school begins. Wake up at an earlier time, pick out outfits, and eat breakfast at the times you would on a regular school day. If you’d like, you can even practice saying goodbye and leaving the house/moving to another room to work, so that you both become accustomed to the separation.
How to maintain wellness + self-care tips
- Connect with other parents who have kids in the same year or program: Especially if your child is starting at a new school or in a new learning environment, it can help to connect with others who can make you feel more comfortable about it.
- Reach out to friends for emotional support: The community of moms is a valuable resource, and by reaching out to others, you will quickly learn that you aren’t alone in experiencing these feelings during the back-to-school season.
- Re-invest in your hobbies: If you have new free time, frame it as an opportunity to return to some of your favourite hobbies as sources of joy and relaxation. A benefit of the kids going back to school is having more time to yourself and for yourself.
- Journal your feelings: This is a great way to release thoughts and work through emotions. You may come to find that the source of your sadness or anxiety is something unrelated or much broader than you first think. If you’re wanting to try journaling but aren’t sure where to start, consider looking at our blog from last week (linked here) for a number of prompts to get you started.
- Go to therapy: In particular, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and positive psychology can be helpful for mothers. Speaking to a professional is another way to unburden your thoughts and emotions, while gaining perspective and guidance from a third party. We recognize that therapy is not accessible for everyone, so if you’re looking to speak to someone, Avalon offers free counselling services to women in recovery (contact a Centre for more info – emails and phone numbers can be found here).
- Ask for help: If you have a partner or co-parent, split up chores and responsibilities and ask for help when needed. In order to reduce stress and focus on your mental health, you will need assistance from others and alone time when necessary.
At Avalon, we know that the back-to-school transition can be tough. We feel for all the mothers who are experiencing stress around this time and we recognize it can be extra difficult for those in recovery. We hope this blog contained some useful information and tips for you. Additionally, if you’re looking for any back-to-school or back-to-work clothing, the Clothing Closets at all 3 of our Centres have re-opened. Avalon’s 12-step recovery meetings are also offered every day throughout the fall, with an increasing number of in-person options. If there’s anything else Avalon can do to support you during this time, please feel free to reach out to a Centre Manager or send us a message on social media! Sending you love, peace, and strength.