By Zaiba Hasan
I am anxious. My kids are anxious. We are inundated every day with news on COVID cases rising, people debating the effectiveness of masks, politicizing our desire to get the kids back in school, and our attempt to reach for some semblance of normalcy. As I write this, the Delta variant is getting stronger, and apparently, there is a Lambda strain as well.
I wasn’t part of a sorority so these Greek letters are... well… Greek to me. So instead of watching my blood pressure rise, I prayed, then meditated, and then did what Mommying While Muslim Podcast
does best: I found the experts who can guide me towards easing the transition back to school and hopefully alleviate some of the anxiety along the way. Namely, my amazing co-host, Dr. Uzma Jafri (family practitioner), and Zainab Fazal director of The Behaviour Company
, which helps people and companies using behavior analysis.
Here are their seven tips for managing anxiety around back-to-school season:
1. Know the facts. There are a gazillion memes on social media and conspiracy theories about COVID floating around on WhatsApp from your dad’s coworker with a cousin in the “fill-in-the-blank” city. It can be really hard to decipher what is worth worrying about and what is ultimately “fake news.”
Uzma recommends 1) checking the CDC Guidelines
for up-to-date COVID information, and 2) just don’t be gross. Engage in basic hygiene, which is what we should already be doing. That means wash your hands frequently, mask when indoors (vaccinated or not, and in case ANYONE is wondering, you don’t have to mask around the family you live with), and try not to lick, spit or sneeze on your family and friends. Easy enough for some, but you haven’t met my eight-year-old.
2. Prioritize self-care. I am sure we have all heard the flight attendant say before take off, “Put your own oxygen mask on before helping your child.” If you, as a parent, are stressed, your child will be too. These little and sometimes not-so-little beings are emotional sponges. They absorb all of the energy you are radiating. Why not have them absorb positivity?
The only way they can do that is if YOU are being positive. Prayer, meditation, working out, and scheduling time with friends will help you balance and reframe negative feelings. This being said, it’s also good to acknowledge your anxiety and your child(ren)’s, that these are emotions we will sort through together.
You and your child may both need a support system during this emotionally charged time, so make sure you schedule “play dates” for everybody.
3. Schedule. Speaking of scheduling, predictability is extremely important for mothers and their children who have anxiety. Start having conversations with your children now about what the day will look like and what needs to happen to make it as “conflict-free” as possible. If your children are older, make sure they are included in the process. If consulted, they are more likely to follow through with what needs to be done. Prep what you can ahead of time. Have your kids help pack lunches and bags and gather their belongings the night before.
Designate an area for permission slips and last-minute forms and paperwork. Start your morning with gratitude and positive affirmations. You’ll be surprised by how this makes even the grumpiest teen smile ever so slightly. Having a less frenzied morning will benefit everyone throughout the day.
4. Recognize the signs of anxiety. So, you are a few weeks into the new year and you are trying to be “love and light,” but guess what? It’s still not working. Knowing what signs to look for in your child can help with a problem before it grows any bigger.
- Changes in behavior
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
- Bouts of crying over “simple” things
Remember, YOU are the expert in your child. If you feel like something is “off” and it’s not getting better after a few weeks, please go to your pediatrician and ask for help.
5. “Name it to Tame It.”
Give your child the language to describe what they are feeling. Only when they know what they are feeling can they actually then battle it. Whether they are Scared, Mad, Sad, Happy, or Anxious, giving them the vocabulary to describe the feeling will also give them the sense of control that they need to help minimize the effect it has on their behavior.
Some tools you can use to help your child are:
- Seeking professional help like behavioral therapy (Check out what Zainab has to offer by way of different forms of behavior therapy and support at The Behaviour Company)
6. Remember: You are their safe space. When they come home, they may break down, they may be silent, they may be like the Energizer bunny. Accept them as they are. Don’t bog them down with a gazillion questions, and if you can, designate that “right after school” time as a decompression block. Give them a snack (or dinner like we do in my house).
Suggest that they play outside in the sun for a bit, or if they are teens make them go for a walk/run, since doing some sort of physical activity will be helpful in managing some of the angst that has been building up during the school day. Maintaining or introducing healthy eating and sleeping habits will set them up for success even in a non-pandemic year.
7. Finally, give yourself grace. We are all navigating uncharted territory. None of us have the answers, and all of us are doing the best we can.
Praying that you all have a healthy new school year and that the variants end soon—and that next year we aren’t talking about a Zeta variant. Though I am partial to that letter.
Check out the entire conversation between Uzma, myself and Zainab about managing anxiety and behaviors during back-to school season.
Until next time,
Zaiba Hasan is part of the dynamic duo behind the award-winning podcast, Mommying While Muslim. She is a spiritual parent coach at Emerge Parenting Solutions (launching January 2022), interfaith mediator and sports mama extraordinaire. Look for her on the baseball fields and basketball courts in the DMV (Washington, D.C.-Maryland-Virginia) area cheering from the sidelines.