Written by Kara S. Anderson
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this year, it’s more important than ever to prioritize mental health in our homeschools.
As I write this at the tail-end of July, already I am getting frantic emails and my podcast partner Cait and I are getting concerned voicemails about the homeschool year ahead.
Parents suddenly thrust into distance learning are scrambling, and so many are still struggling with the decision of how to homeschool given their own work requirements and unique family dynamics.
Plus, many parents are reaching out to say that their kids are having a really hard time.
Little quirks from before – a child that maybe struggled with sleep on occasion or felt a little anxious sometimes – have turned into full-on health issues in some cases. It seems like any traits from before the pandemic are dialed up for all of us.
Would you rather listen to this post?
So I think that as we enter this new homeschool year, whether we are seasoned homeschoolers or brand new – we need to be sure that we are placing mental health – our children’s and our own – at the forefront of our homeschools.
Self-care matters (and isn’t selfish!)
My main mental health struggle is anxiety. Looking back now, I can see that I’ve had it since I was a kid. And during the pandemic, it peaked. Luckily, I have a counselor and a doctor who I work with to balance my medication and keep me on track with self-care.
In fact, at every appointment, both my doctor and my counselor ask me what I am doing for self-care.
Much more than a trendy term that translates to manicures and face masks (the old, goopy kind), self-care can encompass many physical, emotional and spiritual components to help us stay at our best.
- Exercise or movement
- Prayer or meditation
- Eating well
- Staying hydrated
- Making time for hobbies and interests
If you or your kiddos are highly sensitive, it’s helpful to take sensory needs into account, too – it might help to burn candles to eliminate stale smells or try to limit noise as much as possible. (These are an amazing invention! – afflink)
A daily walk might help you reset when recovering from a melt-down (yours or theirs.)
Mostly, self-care is about figuring what you need, and knowing that it’s okay to need it. And by prioritizing it, we’re teaching our kids that it’s okay to care for ourselves and good to learn healthy coping mechanisms.
Plan for it
This will be our 13th year of homeschooling, and something that I’ve learned is that when things reach an emotional boiling point, it feels so much better to take an intentional mental health day (or even half-day), than it does to lose your cool and throw in the towel on a random Wednesday.
So when things start to get hard, it can be really helpful to just notice …
Signs to look for in our kids can include crying more often, “whining,” arguing with siblings – these things can feel frustrating and feed into our own anxiety, worry and insecurity. But if we can pull back and see the bigger picture, these behaviors are just the tip of the iceberg.
In my book, More Than Enough, I share about how what we see of an iceberg is just the top percent. The remaining 90 percent is invisible beneath the water:
“That’s how I think of behavior.
Throwing the pencil out of frustration is the part we see.
What we don’t see is fear:
- I don’t understand long division
- My brother gets long division and he’s two years younger than me
- What if I never get this?
- Am I stupid?
- Does Mom think I’m stupid?
Imagine all those thoughts swirling in you. I would want to throw a pencil too.
I’m not condoning the throwing of sharp implements, of course, I’m just saying that when our kids are struggling, it’s so important not to pile on, and to address the underlying cause, not just the outward behavior.”
And right now, the underlying cause might very well be stress and overwhelm.
Our kids may not be able to vocalize it, but I’m certain many of them are feeling it.
And parents are too.
So what can we do when it all feels like too much?
First, we can remember that we are not alone in this right now. Whether kids are homeschooling, distance learning, hybrid schooling or back in school, things are odd and stressful for everyone.
It probably isn’t your school choice that is causing things to feel overwhelming.
Second, I think it’s more important now than ever to focus on being Mom (or Dad).
When your kids are having a hard time, take off the teacher hat, throw it across the room, and focus on your baby, even if that baby is 16 and taller than you are.
Emotional needs are REAL.
Which is why we also need to focus on our own self-care as parents.
We can’t help anyone if we are just barely holding on ourselves.
So my advice to all of us homeschooling this year is to lower expectations, focus on connection with our kids, and prioritize mental health.
In ten years’ time, we’ll look back and know that we made the right decision–one that just might have made all the difference for us and our people.
(And if that means you need extra help, don’t be afraid to reach out to your doctor or a counselor. Or, you can also contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness Helpline at 800-950-6264 Monday through Friday from 10 a.m, to 6 p.m., EST or in a crisis, text “NAMI” to 741741 for 24/7, confidential, free crisis counseling.)
What’s Your Homeschool Mom Personality? Take Jamie’s quiz now and receive a free personality report to help you organize your homeschool based on what your personality type needs most!