Tips for dealing with back-to-school stress during COVID-19


By Helene "H" Disco, Center for Mental Health


As schools open across our nation, we have been seeing that things are going to look different in every town and city. In some instances, decisions to do home school or on line school have been made for families by their districts. In other instances, there are decisions to still to be made: should parents send their child ren to in-person school or not? Even after families have la bored over these decisions and made what they hope to be "the right decision," there is always a possibility that things can change without their input in these uncertain times.

In times of great stress, our minds play tricks on us. Instead of operating in what we call the "Wizard brain," the calm, cool, collected part of our brain, we tend to operate out of our "Lizard brain," the more impulsive and reactive part. Not only is this happening in parents, it is also manifesting in children.

As we charge forward into an uncertain new school year, I would like to offer some strategies to help you and your children with the stress and ambiguity.

- Increase self-awareness by taking note which brain you are operating from. If you find you are in your .. Lizard Brain," take a moment to breathe and calm yourself down before reacting. Also take note of which brain those around you seem to be operating from. If they are acting out of impulse and from a place of stress, your recognition of that can help calm the situation down. Practice creating more patience and grace for yourself and others.

- When speaking with you r children about the present, past, or future, REFLECT and REPEAT. Questions can hinder a conversation and make children second-guess themselves. Instead, practice reflecting or repeating back what they are saying. For example, if a child says, "I'm sad," instead of asking why, repeat and reflect back to them with this statement "You ARE sad." This will keep the conversation going and let your child know you understand and are listening. Most likely they will continue to explain what is going on with them and no questions will be needed.

- Analyze your options in a potentially irritable or challenging situation. it is exhausting to fight reality. Radical acceptance is accepting life just as it is. Gracefully accept and acknowledge the feelings and emotions you have about certain situations.

-Focus on what our youth are learning from our current situation, not what they are missing out on.

-Anxiety and depression tend to increase when we focus on the past or fret about the future. Be here now, practice living in the present moment, and revel in it.

-Seek support when necessary for you or your family. Investigate individual and group counseling options and various support groups.

The Center for Mental Health is here to help. Call 970.252.3200 or visit to learn about the services provided for children, families and adults.

Helene "H " Discoe, LPC. CAC I, is a therapist with the Center for Mental Health who also works with Ridgway and Ouray schools.