From the relationship center

Back to school with COVID-19

By Kim Olver
Posted 8/31/21

School is starting and the COVID-19 delta variant is wreaking havoc with children. What’s a parent to do?

This is a hard question to answer definitively. What we know from the experts is …

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From the relationship center

Back to school with COVID-19

Posted

School is starting and the COVID-19 delta variant is wreaking havoc with children. What’s a parent to do?

This is a hard question to answer definitively. What we know from the experts is that virtual school has children falling behind in their learning. Children need to socialize with other children for their own growth, development and even happiness. Parents need to get back to work. The CDC is recommending children return to school with masks and social distancing in place.

And yet many people are scared, and rightly so. There are so many unknowns. Add in the fact that this pandemic has been completely politicized, and it’s a real conundrum.

What will you do? This is a decision that will need to be made by every parent. If there is a mask mandate in your child’s school, then you know they will be expected to be masked up. (New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has directed the state health department to institute a universal mask mandate for public and private schools, but at press time it has not taken effect. Nothing similar is in place in Pennsylvania.) You may attempt to send your child without a mask, but the school will undoubtedly provide your child with a mask for the day, unless your child qualifies for a medical exemption or your family for a religious one.

If your school has no mask mandate, then you will need to decide what you want for your child. Do they wear a mask or not? And if yes, can you count on your child to keep their mask on in the face of peer pressure to do otherwise?

What are the alternatives? Many schools are going in-person this year, without a virtual component. Should you live in a district like that, then your child will need to attend in person unless you are willing to homeschool, place them in a private virtual school program or keep them home illegally. If you have the means to do the first two of these, then consider your options—public school, home school or private virtual school—and make the best decision for you.

The final option involves breaking the law and keeping your child home. I understand that a parent’s number one priority is the safety of their children. You want them to live more than you want a good relationship with them, respect from them, or fun in your relationship. Safety is always number one. For this reason, I believe at least some parents will consider keeping their children home without providing an adequate school alternative. This is an option; however, I implore you to research the consequences prior to making this decision. If you are willing to pay the cost and believe this is the best way to protect your child, then no one can stop you, at least for a time.

If you find yourself without the means to pay for private school or to leave your job to homeschool, then you have difficult choices.

You can send your child to public school and trust the precautions they have in place to stem the spread of COVID.

You can send your child to public school and trust your child to do the things you’ve taught them to protect themselves.

You can send your child to public school and worry yourself sick all day long and cause your own mental, and potentially physical, health to deteriorate.

Worry is something we do when we fear that something will happen in the future. That thing almost never occurs, and when it does, it’s not something we could have done anything about anyway. Worrying is a waste of energy and attention, especially when there are many more productive things you could be doing.

Is the current school year, with COVID-19 lurking in the background, worrisome? Of course it is, unless you don’t believe the media reports. And if you do, it is important to survey the situation and decide what you can do to mitigate the danger.

Follow these steps:

What do you have control over? You can get vaccinated. You can vaccinate your children over the age of 12. You can educate your child about the importance of washing their hands frequently, not touching their face, about socially distancing and wearing a mask. You can wear a mask. If possible, you can homeschool or enroll your child in a private, virtual school program. You could even try petitioning the school for the virtual option again this year for your child. Make sure you keep your health insurance current. These are all things you can do.

Take action on what you can control.

Stop worrying about the things you can’t control, by taking charge of your thoughts. When you find those thoughts about potential future tragedy intruding, just say, “Stop,” in your head and direct your thoughts to a more pleasant topic, such as something you are looking forward to. The idea is not to just order yourself to stop worrying but to have a proactive plan of what to think instead.

At the end of the day, parents are going to need to know they have done everything within their power to keep their children safe. Most schools are also interested in protecting children. Everyone is doing their best to get what they want in this situation. Unfortunately, not everyone is prioritizing the safety of students. This leaves parents in a situation where they will have to decide for themselves what is best for their child in this divisive political climate.

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