What if you don’t feel safe sending your kids back to school?

What are you going to do when your kids’ school decides to reopen but you don’t feel safe sending them?

Parents are struggling right now to find the right path. When school districts don’t allow you to decide to keep them home, or when you cannot stay home with your kids, what will you do?

I can see a lot of sides of the debate over reopening schools. One side is the educational advocate. I feel very connected to doing what is best for kids’ education but we also need to consider their safety, mental health, and overall welfare.

A few weeks back, when the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a statement that schools need to reopen in the fall, their intent was to protect children and promote the learning and socialization that schools provide. I agree with the intent of the AAP’s statement but respectfully disagree with their recommendation.

Pediatricians are not public health experts; they are advocates for children’s health and well-being. I am also not a public health expert. From my vantage point as a parenting expert and child advocate, I see a larger picture than “lost ground” from not being in a classroom.

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In the last few months, supporting parents to manage distance learning, parents have made so many sacrifices! We automatically put ourselves and our needs last. In my workshops, I remind parents of being on a plane before it takes off. Remember the instructions (cliché alert!) we hear from the flight staff? “Put on YOUR OWN oxygen mask before helping your children.”

In real life, we don’t follow this wisdom. It’s a reflex. We “hold our breath” and push through without getting enough oxygen. If we somehow keep from passing out, it takes an enormous toll on us.

We don’t take good enough care of ourselves. Our work suffers. Our mood suffers. We need a break.

The worst part: we miss so many chances to enjoy the time we are stuck-at-home with our kids. There are moments to remember, times to savor. But too many parents are simply too exhausted to appreciate the silver lining in this pandemic.

The summer should provide a breather but it is hitting many families hard, cutting them off from the travel and leisure activities that connect us with our loved ones.

When the choice arrives in the next few weeks to send our kids back to school, it feels SO tempting. “I just need a break. A few hours a day could offer me SOME relief.”

But it won’t. Getting a break won’t balance our worry that the school may not be able to keep our kids safe and healthy, despite their best-laid plans. And what about the health of their teachers? And food service workers and bus drivers?

From my perspective, too many of these reopening plans are being made by a small group of administrators and politicians who don’t have young kids or spend any time in the classroom or lunchroom. Most importantly, you need to decide what is right for your family.

Photo credit: Kimberly Farmer/Unsplash

If you are struggling with this decision, DM me to talk about how we might help.