A Moms’ Guide for Back-to-School, Part Three: Wellness for the Whole Family

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A Moms’ Guide for Back-to-School, Part Three: Wellness for the Whole Family

September 28, 2020

It’s no secret that this is a different back-to-school experience for everyone. Regardless of whether the kids are going back to their schools or learning remotely at home, this has been a challenging September for all parents, everywhere.

“Am I making the right decision?”

“Will they be safe?”

“How is their mental well being?”

“Will they miss their friends?”

“Can they still see their grandparents?”

These are just a handful of the many questions parents across the city have been asking themselves as the kids head back this month.

It’s yet another complex layer in the shifting COVID-19 landscape that parents have been working through since March. And it’s been difficult—especially for moms. The stats on women leaving the work force to care for children, new moms and pregnant women suffering from significant spikes in anxiety and depression; it’s obvious that moms have been hit hard.

We spoke with three local experts—one in maternal mental health, one in nutrition and fitness, and another in relationship coaching—to gather a few tips for moms on how we can help reduce stress and manage back-to-school anxiety.

Shannon MacAulay, Registered Social Worker at The WOMB Burlington, shares her back-to-school wellness tips for the whole family:

(Read the first two posts in this series on how stress can impact your relationship with your partner, and on how food affects your mood.)

This is a strange time for everyone, parents, and children alike. We are entering into an experience that is totally foreign, so how can we navigate this new reality in a way where we can all find ways to be well emotionally and mentally?

Here are a few tips for back-to-school wellness for the whole family.

  • Be gentle with yourself and with your family members. This includes giving yourself, and your children more room and space for bigger feelings and emotions. Remember that it is okay to not feel okay, and that sharing this message with your family members in an age appropriate way can help to relieve a lot of anxieties, pressures and stresses that we are putting on ourselves and loved ones. Adopting the “we are in this together – we are a team” stance can help immensely with fostering feelings of connection and resilience in times where there is so much unknown.

 

  • Shift expectations. Celebrate small yet powerful wins and successes like making it through a day at school, or a day homeschooling. Make a celebration jar, where you write down something you feel good about, or are proud of in another member of the family each day and put it in a mason jar. At the end of the week, or day read aloud to everyone these messages. At times like these it is all about team morale.

 

  • Be well. Check in with friends and partners and children. Ask them how they are, and what you can do to be helpful to each other as a community. Build your support systems or reach out and ask for more help if needed. This is bravery. Have a daily reflection with your children and partner if applicable: “What was your rose (best part of your day)? What was your thorn (worst part)? And what is your bud (your hope for tomorrow)?” This will easily get conversations started and show where each individual needs some more connection and support and also where we can celebrate those roses.

Most of all love and be kind and patient with yourself. And those in your bubble will better be able to do the same.

 

Shannon MacAulay has worked in the helping field for over 15 years. From being a camp counsellor for children and their families who are experiencing serious childhood illnesses, to working overseas in west Africa with women and young children in very challenging situations, as well as being a child and youth therapist working with children and women who have experienced trauma.

But it was Shannon’s own experience with pregnancy, birth and becoming a mother that her desire to focus on working with families and new parents was born. Her journey into motherhood gave her a firsthand experience and appreciation for the challenges and barriers that so many women and new parents face when they bring a child into the world. Shannon’s passion for holding safe space to explore, heal and grown in the face of all that becoming a parent presents in our lives is felt through her unwavering compassion and empathy as well as a dash of humour. Shannon draws from a variety of different therapeutic modalities to ensure the right fit for each individual.

Using a strength based approach Shannon is committed to supporting and holding space for women and parents as they walk the (sometimes messy) path into parenthood.

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