It helps to find ways to keep yourself from getting overwhelmed.

As the start of the school year draws closer, it is beginning to look likely that many schools will be reopening in the fall. There’s a lot of uncertainty about what steps schools will take to protect students and teachers from COVID-19 and how these changes will affect your family. This uncertainty can be frustrating, stressful, or even scary for both you and your kids, especially since it’s hard to plan around regulations and rule changes that haven’t been decided upon yet.

When you’re already trying to juggle working from home, caring for your children, and protecting your family against the virus, this uncertainty and the added stress that comes with it likely feels like the absolute last thing you need. Thankfully, there are ways to tackle the uncertainty so that you’re not more stressed while you’re waiting for answers from the school system. Here are 5 ways you can deal with this uncertainty.

1. Take active steps to work through your emotions.

Our society idealizes focusing on the positive, and while there’s certainly something to be said for this approach, it can lead people to believe that they need to bottle up or push down negative emotions. It’s even pretty common for people to feel guilty for experiencing negative emotions like fear or uncertainty in the first place! Unfortunately, experts say that this approach can worsen your fear, uncertainty, or other negative emotions because they simply tend to crop back up again when you don’t address them. Take time to acknowledge and actively work through the emotions you’re experiencing instead of trying to push them aside or shaming yourself for not being positive enough. Additionally, practicing mindfulness exercises can be a useful way to reduce your anxiety, helping you to feel focused and relaxed.

2. Stay informed—but don’t overdo it.

It’s a good idea to stay on top of the news regarding your child’s school and what decisions they’re making for the coming year. This allows you and your child to prepare for these changes. While staying informed is important, try not to overdo it. Don’t obsess over the news or check for updates constantly, as this will only stress you out more. You should also try to stay away from any articles that are simply speculating or focusing on “what if” scenarios. Check in with the Middletown, OH school system periodically to see what decisions have been made and stick to the concrete facts. This will help you strike a balance where you’re well informed but not bogged down by unnecessary concerns.

3. Be kind to yourself.

After several months of juggling working from home, caring for your kids, and keeping an eye on news of the pandemic, you might feel stretched thin. You can feel guilty for not giving your kids or your job the attention each deserves. Try to be kind to yourself and remember that you can’t do everything—no one can! Make sure you’re taking care of yourself and don’t forget to give yourself a break. Eat healthy meals and snacks, exercise a little each day if you can, get plenty of sleep, and dedicate a little time to yourself every day for self-care. You can spend this time relaxing, practicing mindfulness techniques, enjoying a hobby, talking to a friend on the phone, or doing any other activity that helps you feel relaxed and fulfilled.

Even if spending time on self-care sounds wonderful, you may find yourself feeling like it’s a waste of time—just another activity that’s taking time away from your work and your kids. The reality, however, is that it’s incredibly important for your physical and mental health. If you don’t take a break and allow the pressure to simply build up, you can burn out or reach a breaking point. Focusing on self-care for even a few minutes every day will help reduce your anxiety levels, making the uncertainty of the school year feel a little less daunting and refreshing your mind so that you can give your full attention and best effort to both your work and your kids.

4. Be open with your kids.

Unfortunately, uncertainty often affects kids more than adults, especially when they can tell that you’re struggling as well. Kids simply don’t have the wealth of life experience that tells them everything will be okay eventually, so they need reassurance. As a result, you should make sure you talk to your kids about what’s going on in an age-appropriate way. Ask them how they’re doing, validate their emotions, and share your own emotions with them—calmly, of course. This will help you know exactly what your child is going through, build a closer, more trusting bond with your child, and provide them with a great model of how they can express and handle negative emotions in a healthy way. Once you’ve worked through these emotions and acknowledged them, it’s also much easier to reassure your child because they feel as if their concerns have been genuinely listened to and considered rather than just brushed aside.

5. Focus on what you can plan for.

While it’d be nice if we could predict what the situation with COVID-19 and our school systems will be like in a few months, the reality is that we simply can’t. At this point in the planning process, there’s no point in worrying about the logistics or specifics too much; doing so will only increase your sense of uncertainty and worsen your resulting anxiety. There are still aspects of returning to school that you can plan for, however, so focusing on these details will help you regain a sense of control and preparedness.

If you know you’ll need to visit a family dentist for your family’s regular dental cleaning and checkup before school starts back up, take the time to schedule an appointment with Dr. Lang for yourself and your child. Not only is the checkup necessary for your family’s oral health, but the appointment is an important step towards getting your child ready to go back to school—no matter what that will look like. Taking charge of little details like this and planning for the aspects of the school year that you can predict or control will help you feel like you have a better handle on the situation.

While the upcoming school year may seem like it’s full of uncertainties for your family, there are plenty of ways you can handle this uncertainty. Perfecting some of these practices may take a little work, but they can reduce your entire family’s anxiety levels and ensure that your child is ready to take school—and all of its various changes—head-on in the fall.