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How to manage parental anxiety when preparing for the school year amid coronavirus: Start Smart, Stay Smart

Dr. Dr. Francoise Adan, a psychiatrist at University Hospitals and director of the Connor Integrative Health Network, offers tips for parents.

CLEVELAND — The anxiety about the upcoming school year is not only real for kids, it's real for parents, too.

Dan Barton, a married father of three young girls who’s also working from home, admits that the process of preparing his daughters to return to school is causing some concern.

“The anxiety is there,” Barton says. “You feel nervous. You know that there’s pros and cons to everything, but right now it seems that each decision you make the cons are kind of outweighing any pros and it sucks. But we’re going to push through it.”

“I think it's just the unknowns that cause the anxiety,” adds middle school teacher and mom of one, Stacy Gleason. “What if my son were to contract the virus or bring it here? I'm high risk, my parents are high risk.”

All valid concerns according to University Hospitals psychiatrist Dr. Francoise Adan.

“All of us are stressed. All of us are really in the middle of a storm, but I like to say we are not on the same boat.”

GIVE YOURSELF SELF-COMPASSION AND PATIENCE

That's why Dr. Adan recommends parents have self-compassion and patience with themselves.

“We really need to accept what is and realize that all of us may not be all the time at our best right now,” explains Dr. Adan, who also serves as the director of the Connor Integrative Health Network at University Hospitals.

“I choose to seek peace, not perfection when it comes to raising my kids,” Barton shares. “That keeps a lot of my anxiety at bay.”

Managing one's anxiety is a skill Dr. Adan says is imperative for parents because “nothing is more contagious than emotions.”

DEVELOP A PLAN

The doctor advises moms and dads to develop an individualized stress management plan, which can include mediation and techniques involving gratitude, positivity and mindfulness.

CHOSE TO STAY IN THE PRESENT

When it comes to dealing with the unknown, choose to stay in the present.

“Being present doesn't mean that I'm ignoring the future,” explains Dr. Adan. “I'm planning for it … focusing on what I have control because that's the only thing we can do.”

This is advice Gleason is implementing.

“I guess you just have to kind of go with the flow … try telling myself this is not permanent, that there will be an end to this. It won’t be tomorrow, but it will be soon, and we just have to keep that positive thought going to get through it.”

ADDITIONAL TIPS

Dr. Adan has additional recommendations for parents looking to manage their back to school parental anxiety during a pandemic that include:

  • Validating and normalizing feelings
  • Doing the basics
    • Get enough sleep.
    • Find ways to be active.
    • Eat healthy and balanced meals.
    • Find time to engage in safe social connections to get the support you need. Dr. Adan says just because we must be physically distant doesn’t mean we need to be socially distant.
  • Find time to play or do something new, which can include trying a new recipe or picking up on a fun activity you used to do.
  • Find the silver lining in your situation.