Dear Dr. Alfiee: Back to School Tips for Parents

Mental Health

Dear Dr. Alfiee,

I’m really stressed about sending my kids back to school. Any tips on how to juggle everything?

With Love,
A Stressed Out Parent

Dear Stressed Out Parent,

This will be a stressful time for many of us (me included).  Here are a few ideas to help you as you work on being a parent and a whole school administration all by yourself!

1. Active listening

“Sometimes the best way to help our teens is to be an active listener. If you feel your teen needs help, start a conversation by just checking in with your teen, and listening without interruption.”

2. Check-in regularly

“Schedule some time to just let your teen/child talk with you.  Tell them that you just want to have some time to hear about their lives.”  Then you really have to listen…

3. Model self-care

“I always tell parents and loved ones, don’t say that you are ‘too blessed to be stressed’ and things like this”. It can be confusing for teens.  Instead, practice taking care of yourself and allowing your teen to see you doing things that make you feel better, like exercising, cooking, meditating, etc.  The added bonus for parents is that we parent better when we feel better”

4. Brainstorm an action plan together.

“Sometimes we think that teens just don’t want to be bothered with us adults and that is not always true.  Instead try to build up to a conversation that allows your teen to tell you what they need to feel their best emotionally.  It may take time to get to a concrete answer, but it is time well spent.  Hang in there with your teens and they will thank you.”

5. Build Your Tribe

As a parent, you CANNOT do this alone, you need support so reach out and connect with other parents who may be also home schooling or worried about their kids going to school every day.  Set up biweekly Zoom calls with a team of parents and use this as an opportunity to connect with people who may not have your resources.  I read about how in Texas the haves and the have nots are experiencing vastly different school years in stay at home because parents with resources are polling their resources to hire tutors and part time teachers whole folks who don’t have these resources (disproportionately people of color we know) are left out.  For me, this presents a wonderful opportunity to practice the kind of inclusion we all want our children to experience.  So why not reach out to your local school to see if there are ways you can contribute some support to parents who may not have the resources you have?  One way I am doing this is by donating a few mental health care packages to local students (encouraging posters and stickers with mental health messages on them) so that kids (and their loved ones) can have some analog/old school support in his digital era.

Remember, there are many online resources available to help you, and please for goodness sake remember not to isolate yourself.   Try  and for starters. Reach out to other parents, lean on your partner/spouse/co-parent and loved ones, and definitely take some time for you – daily.  You must be rested to be your best.

Love and Light,

Dr. Alfiee