Managing COVID-19 Stress During Back-to-School Season

Parents are having to grapple with impossible decisions this back-to-school season.

  • “If I send my child back to school, will that endanger their health, their peers’ health, and their teacher’s health?”
  • “If I keep my child at home, will that make things worse for them?”
  • “Do I have the time and energy to try homeschooling?”
  • “If I hire someone to help, am I widening achievement gaps and contributing to inequality?”


Not only are parents having to make difficult decisions, but every decision they make is often ridden with guilt. As Caitlyn Collins, a sociologist at Washington University in St. Louis, says in this New York Times piece, “Moms are feeling acute and crushing guilt. We think of families as a private and personal responsibility, and in the face of a global pandemic, it means this work falls on women’s shoulders. There is no good choice, and instead of blaming larger structural forces, women in America tend to always blame themselves.”

Let’s explore a bit more how mothers specifically have been impacted during this crisis.


Moms and the COVID-19 Crisis: Looking at the Numbers

  • The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that mothers are more likely than fathers to say they’re worried about the health and safety of their child returning to school in person — yet mothers will most likely be making the sacrifices if school goes virtual.
  • A COVID-19 Working Parents Survey found that 57 percent of women said they were bearing most or all of the extra child care responsibilities during the COVID-19 crisis, compared to 36 percent of men.
  • According to the report that analyzed the Current Population Survey, working mothers who kept their jobs put in more hours as the COVID-19 outbreak deepened across the U.S. Fathers on average reduced their working hours.


Tips on Managing the Stress and Anxiety of School During COVID-19

When looking at these stats, we think this first tip is fitting:

1. Give yourself a break.

Be kind to yourself. We’re all trying to do our best in these circumstances. Many of us are also suffering from decision fatigue. “For example, why can’t you figure out what to cook for dinner tonight? Blame decision fatigue, which is bound to set in when every step outside seems to have life or death consequences,” The Washington Post writes.

2. Do what is best for you and your family.

There’s been a rise in parent shaming during this pandemic. As the New York Times writes, “But the shaming, scholars say, is distracting from the larger societal issues underlying the problem. Parents have been left stranded with very little in the way of support.”

Ignore the unhelpful noise, and don’t compare yourself with another family. Every family’s needs are different; this includes children’s learning differences, parents’ work schedules and incomes, and high-risk family members. Have confidence in your decisions regarding schooling, parenting, your career, your health, and your family.

3. Have the conversation now, and be honest and open about your own feelings and concerns.

We don’t know what school will look like in the fall, so it’s important to have a conversation now about the upcoming school year. As Dr. Amy Beth Taublieb says in this article, you should acknowledge your own feelings and anxiety, and then talk to your child and give them permission to be afraid. The unknown is the scariest about all of this, and so parents need to identify that and be in touch with how their children are feeling.

4. Set clear boundaries.

Kids need a designated place for learning and schoolwork in their house, even if it’s just the dining room table in the morning. Create an at-home learning space for your child and follow a regular routine.

Be sure to also determine your work schedule with your partner. This will help your family, your clients, and your colleagues.

5. Do social activities with your kids.

Whether it’s Zoom parties, pizza nights, or daily walks, try to keep both of your social lives up during this difficult time.

6. Rely on your community and utilize free resources.

Know you’re not alone, and that there are people and resources you can rely on. One great resource is Pandemic Parenting, a web platform for sharing the latest science-based research. Their first webinar was on the topic “To School or Not to School: Making Decisions in the Time of COVID-19.


Contact Equita Financial Network Today

As working mothers ourselves, Bridget Venus Grimes and I (Katie Burke) know the importance of relying on each other for support and camaraderie. Equita Financial Network helps women financial planners succeed at what they do in a supportive community. Learn more about joining our network today.

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