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Wellness Tips For Parents: Fostering Flexibility and Resilience

This guest post from Lincoln School Psychologist Masha Schiller, PhD, shares some tips for parents as we all navigate the return to school.

As we are beginning our gradual re-entry this week I wanted to share a few thoughts, suggestions, and mostly welcome you all back to Lincoln.

Everyone is tired of hearing how “unusual” and “unprecedented” it all is, and yet it is true and we are all adjusting. We must build on what we know to create pathways for what is unfamiliar. I am offering here by no means an exhaustive list, but some ways to apply what we know about kids in general, and what you know best about yours—to chart initial steps to what we hope will be a successful year that builds flexibility and resilience in us all.

  1. Wellness First: This year we will focus on wellness and ask you to do the same.  Academics will always be a priority, but no learning can be optimal without wellbeing. We will implement additional socioemotional support through our advisory program in Middle and Upper Schools as well as enhanced programming in Lower School classrooms. I will be working with teachers in all divisions on this, as well as with students in small groups to explore stress management strategies, practicing self-care and supporting one another. In your families, a similar emphasis on moments of joy, no matter how small, family rituals, and being explicit when we say that taking care of emotional needs is a priority will go a long way.

  2. Communication: Our faculty is dedicated to keeping communication with families as a top priority. It is so important for us to have the full context for what we may be seeing in school. Please let us know of any relevant events, changes, worries, or hopes. Always feel free to contact me directly if I can be of direct assistance, or as a resource for additional supports.

  3. Structure: We always say there is safety in structure. Now more than ever kids benefit from having a predictability that school, schedule, and routine provide. Just by the virtue of once again having this rhythm, the return of some normalcy and competence will serve students of all ages. As parents, you can help by supporting the rules in place at school, perhaps reiterating why they are there in the first place, practicing some at home—maybe a mask hour—to get used to things in the last few days before we start with the whole day.

  4. Prepare and Reflect on the Unusual: We will provide opportunities for students to share their reactions, worries, expectations and hopes. We suggest you do the same. It may be harder for example to read social cues with masks and limited mobility. Anticipation of these challenges and brainstorming ideas for coping can go a long way. How will we compensate for not being able to be close and see someone’s face? We will need more words, less assumptions, check things out and ask for help! Please remember to remind them about their resources at school as well.

  5. Anxiety: It is not unreasonable to be anxious in response to stressful situations. Some of our students are used to being home and may be anxious to separate. Some are more excited to see friends, and that excitement outweighs worry. All young people read cues from their parents. We encourage you to monitor your own emotional response, validate and acknowledge where your child is in terms of return to school, while also giving attention to positive expectations, what has been done to keep schools safe, and plant some seeds for needed flexibility and patience. We will no doubt all make mistakes, and need to regroup and adjust. If we can all keep that as an ongoing expectation we will have less shared and individual burden of anxiety.  

  6. Parent Support: I will be continuing our Parent Coffee series on a monthly basis, by division to provide opportunities for conversation, problem-solving, presentations by experts and of course just sharing and being together.

Please feel free to email me and we will set up a call or Zoom at your convenience to discuss any individual concerns. My very best to all of you!