Eileen Mouyard is the Communications & Outreach Coordinator for Smart Start of Transylvania County, a GetSet Transylvania partner. She is a single mother of a two year-old who currently works and parents from home. 

I have heard it said that success isn’t something you receive or that comes to you, but rather, that you go to it.  

Heading out and seeking success in any situation can be daunting enough, let alone during a six-month-and-on-going pandemic where we are all (quite literally) keeping our distance from one another in order to keep it together. I don’t think I am the only one out here who believed that when the last school year came screeching to a halt and closed up shop we’d all be rightly “back to normal” by the start of the coming year.

And yet, here we are.

To say there are uncertainties now and in the coming future is an understatement. Covid-19 has surely taught us all (is still teaching us all) a lesson in the reliability of the unknown to occur. But, even amidst the vast and hazy landscape, we can still find our footing as we move towards a new angle of success as our children return to school or something like it.

Lucky for us, we have incredible resources such as The Child Mind Institute which is an “independent, national nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of children and families”. Primarily the resources this organization provides focus on mental health and learning disorders with their focus being to “help children reach their full potential in school and in life”.

The article “Preparing for Back-to-School Success” has some great pointers on helping children (and parents!) get set for success this year.

●      Set Boundaries

Dear parents, you have enough on your plate so let your kids’ teachers do the teaching. Our role as parents is to provide structure and support enabling our kids towards positive problem solving. Even if we’re homeschooling or our children are learning 100% remotely, our job is to help them, not assume the burden and anxiety for them and do the work.

●      Communicate with teachers

Teachers are going to have a lot of managing this year like never before so ask questions when you have them and practice patience. This article echoes a personal mantra of mine in that you can never communicate too much or too clearly. Touching base with teachers about potential struggles academically or socially and/or letting them get a 10,000-foot-view of your lives may help their teaching (and your child’s learning) go much smoother.

●      Get your child organized

Proper planning prevents pathetic performance! It is remarkable the difference in outcomes when we head into just about any situation or day organized versus not. By making sure you and your child/children are on the same page about the when, where, why, who, and how’s of back to school you will save yourself multiple inevitable meltdowns, fights, and setbacks.

Figure out what your child needs in order to get organized. It might be having their “desk” set up and organized like it would be in a classroom, troubleshoot technological problems or errors, making sure they know how to use their computer or tablet, where chargers and the list of passwords are, etc. Plan for the worse and expect the best, right? Back to school–especially amidst all the chaotic and new circumstances– deserves the extra planning time.

●      Settle into routines

Collaborate with teachers and your kids to set a routine that is functional and reliable. It is important to set up structures that would mimic similarities to being in the classroom. It isn’t going to be exactly like it was or would have been if school this year wasn’t so different, but striving to make an effort towards a routine normal is important for kids to feel ready to learn.

●      Ease anxiety about an unusual school year

Get creative about relieving anxieties. Brainstorm ways that you and your kids can (safely) socialize with their teacher(s) and peers in order to get to know one another better or have some unstructured time together. Remind your kids that we all collectively are doing this new back to school thing together; no one has all the answers or knows what is going on all the time as this is some very uncharted waters. In addition, remind your kids that they’ve got this and that if and when they need help, you’re right there to do just that.

●      Schedule family time

If I have learned one thing about working remotely and how it might translate to back to school and hybrid or remote learning it is this: when do we stop? Having your desk or office within physical reach makes it much more difficult to “go home”. This article mentions setting aside “transition time” which could mirror the time when kids would be hypothetically getting home from school, parents are shuffling through mail or feeding the dog and deciding what’s for dinner. This time can help transition us from our work and school spaces physically while also psychologically triggering our brains that it’s time to “go home” for the day. Also, planning activities outside the home for the weekend or an evening helps to have something to look forward to– for everyone.

However you and your family are choosing to go back to school this year remember to go with your gut. You know better than anyone or any study or resource what is best for you and your children; what works for one family, won’t necessarily work for another. There is success out there and we all have every right to dive tumbling toward it. I tell my daughter all the time, “you can do this, sometimes you just need to take a breath and ask for help”. I believe it may help many to look at heading back to school this same way: take breaks to realign your perspective, ask for help when you need it, put patience and grace into practice, and set small achievable goals. And, perhaps most importantly, remember you can do it (yes you!).

Resources for Back to School:

https://childmind.org/backtoschool/

https://sesamestreetincommunities.org/topics/school-readiness/