7 Back-To-School Parenting Fears (& Notes of Encouragement)

girl in backpack getting ready for school

This is a difficult time. There, I said it. As a bonus parent, business owner, teacher, and self-care advocate, I feel like I’m constantly being pulled between different parts of my life. Even if I think I’m doing the “right” thing by my business, there’s something that’s sacrificed in my family time, and vice versa. And with it being mid-August, there are so manu back-to-school parenting fears plaguing my mind on the daily.

And I know I’m not alone.

But here’s the thing: the best way to navigate the challenging ups and downs of life is to be reminded that others are struggling, too. In the shared fears, shared advice, and shared encouragement, we can grow and find peace—together.

So here are some of the fears I’m having and have heard others around me vocalize. And here are my little notes of encouragement, too. If you’re feeling any of this and feel compelled to share your own thoughts, comment below. ❤️

“I’m scared my child will fall behind.”

With school shutdowns and shifts to distance learning, there has been a big disconnect between “normal” education and how our children have accessed their learning. There’s no doubt about that. While it makes absolute sense to feel like your child will fall behind (especially if he or she has special needs), please remember that every single child is facing this obstacle. This doesn’t lower the importance of your personal struggle, of course, but it’s important to remember that every child has lost access to socialization and in-person learning, and has felt challenged by the new landscape.

When you feel yourself getting stressed about a lack of learning or about the content that your child is missing, remember that every moment can be a purposeful moment for learning. Rather than putting pressure on yourself to teach what your child isn’t getting, or the reverse, and boycotting the education system altogether, find opportunities to encourage your child to learn alongside you. It’s also worth noting that your child will pick up on your energy, so if you encourage him/her that everything is okay, they will be less apt to be stressed or think they’re falling behind their peers.

“I’m scared that my child won’t learn through a screen.”

Honestly, it’s normal to be stressed about distance learning. There are things your child just can’t get through a screen: in-person instruction, hands-on modeling, group collaboration, and physical manipulatives (just to name a few). If your school isn’t going back to on-campus learning, it can feel like a big bummer (and to be honest, it is). But that doesn’t mean your child is unable to learn. That doesn’t mean your child won’t get an education and grow from this different time.

Shiting to online learning brings about opportunities for creativity: online discussion boards, independence, virtual meetings/discussions, and flexible learning options. Maybe this isn’t the “ideal” you hoped for, but learning is and will still happen. You just have to see it from a different perspective.

“I’m scared about an upswing in virus cases with schools reopening.”

This is a realistic fear for both students and teachers. Having new bodies in the classrooms and halls can add unneeded stress, especially in areas where cases seem to be improving. There is much research around the lowered vulnerability to the virus in children, but regardless, this is still a realistic fear.

Rather than focusing on this, though, try to focus on ways you can keep your child healthy. Are there vitamins your child can take daily? Is there a great hygiene routine you can create at home and integrate when your child is at school? Can you teach your child how to wear a mask (and keep it on) so that he/she (and you, of course), can feel confident during school hours?

“I’m scared of the mixed messages and misinformation.”

I hear you. One of the most frustrating parts of this virus is how many articles are in complete contradiction. While I love social media, it’s important to sift through content and figure out what you align with (and why). It’s also great to research the sources and authors of your favorite content to make sure that it’s credible.

The best thing you can do for yourself and your family is to limit social media usage and make sure that you’re not absorbing too much (and too negative, especially!). You can’t change the content that’s shared in the media, but you can change your reaction to what you read.

“I’m scared my student with learning disabilities won’t have the support he/she needs.”

As a special needs parent, I feel this one. One of the solutions I’ve created in the interim, for both myself and my son, is opportunities to be his teacher. Of course, I’m blessed to be a certified teacher, but even if I wasn’t, I would have considered homeschool options to give my kiddo the education he deserves.

If you are worried about your special needs child’s future, talk to your school leaders and staff. Ask questions. Be vigilant in requesting information, reports, and answers. Don’t be afraid to be needy (while being patient, of course, as all families are experiencing stress right now). And don’t stress too much. This time in y9our child’s life will undoubtedly be challenging, but you are your child’s best advocate, teacher, supporter, and role model. And you’ve got this!

“I’m scared that my child will develop severe anxiety.”

Children experience different emotions and at varying degrees than we do. Just because you’re feeling nervous about going back to school doesn’t mean your child is in the same way (or even at all). And the opposite is true, too. Just because you’re not worried about your child’s safety with the return to on-campus school doesn’t mean that he or she is stress-free.

If you’re worried your child will develop anxiety, talk to him or her. Have open conversations. Explain what’s going on (in terms that he/she can understand), monitor the media he/she consumes (especially if he/she is young), and don’t hide things. The more open you can be—about your feelings and theirs—the less stressed all parties will be heading back into the school year.

“I’m scared about making the right decision.”

One of the biggest back-to-school parenting fears is not knowing if you’re making the right decision. And trust me when I say that no one has it all figured out. Something you have to keep in mind is that there’s no “right” or “wrong” answer — it all depends on the family. Think about what makes the most sense for you and your child(ren). Consider the options, your safety, and your mental wellbeing. Don’t apologize for choosing what makes sense for you, or saying “no” to what doesn’t.

Above all, know that you’re doing the best you can.
And the best — especially during these times — is enough.

This entry was posted in: Education


Marisa Donnelly, M.Ed., is a writer/editor, credentialed teacher, proud bonus mama, and CEO of Be A Light Collective, a coaching and content creation business and digital marketplace. She is the Director of Donnelly’s Daily Apple, a flexible learning/tutoring and educational resource platform, and the lead voice for Momish Moments and Step by Step Parents, verticals dedicated to sharing and advocating for non-traditional parenting journeys. Marisa currently resides in San Diego, California, with her fiancé, kiddo, and their two rambunctious Pitbulls. ❤️