Whether your children or grandchildren are heading back to elementary, high school, or college soon, the return to school will look much different than it did last year—and certainly different than it did two years ago, in the world before our daily lives included mask-wearing, temperature checks, social distancing and in the days before conversations about infection rates, virus variants, and hospital COVID case loads became as commonplace as discussion about the weather.
The added stress these new realities place on families is real, even when we think we are used to it and perceive it as “the new normal.” It’s not normal and it still has its impact on us. How can your family maintain their emotional and spiritual well-being in the midst of this transition and change?
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are a few tips that might help your family stay emotionally resilient and spiritually grounded while copping with pandemic realities.
Give yourselves more down time to recover from time at work and school, where being masked and socially distance will be the norm. Don’t pack your lives or your children’s lives with more classes, camps, or study sessions. It’s okay if the kids don’t have activities every day after school.
Indulge in simple pleasures.
Do things together as a family that are low key, creative, and bonding: a meal together, a chalk art session on the driveway, a family corn hole tournament or tossing a frisbee with the dog can be pleasurable and renewing.
Share your gratitude.
When your children hear your gratitude for things like birdsong, sunrises, satisfying collaborations at work, or funny conversations overheard on your commute, they are likely to share the things they are grateful for, too.
Demonstrate kindness and care.
Model ways your children can feel empowered to make a difference during this time. Share, “A friend told me her uncle is sick with COVID. I felt so sad and helpless hearing that. I promised her we’d say a prayer for her uncle tonight at home. Will you pray with me for him?” Or “David down the street works at the hospital and said he’s working longer shifts because there are more sick people. I promised I’d bring him a meal on Saturday so he doesn’t have to think about cooking that day. Will you help me plan and cook the meal?”
Make the Word of God your refuge.
Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to keep it together, life overwhelms us. When we allow God’s word to be our home and refuge, we have a place to heal and find comfort. There are beautiful texts in Scripture that can buoy you up and help you and your loved ones find their way through the challenges. Psalm 23—the Good Shepherd psalm—is a classic. Or try Psalm 27:1-14, or Philippians 1:1-11, or 2 Corinthians 1:3-5. Or another favorite of your own.
Share your wisdom.
What works for you and your family? You can contribute to the well-being of others by sharing your own tips in the comment section below.
As your family prepares for the children’s return to school, turning to care for one another, simplifying your schedule, enjoying the simple things in life, expressing gratitude, and finding your home in God’s word, you will as Paul says in the letter to the Romans allow “…the God of hope” to “fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Sister Beth is the communication director for the Dominican Sisters and is deeply engaged with social justice concerns including SDART and the Iraq Coordinating Committee, an initiative of the U.S. Dominican Justice Promoters. Her past ministry has included communications director for the Springfield diocese, a previous stint as communication director for the Dominicans, development work at St. Pius V Parish in Chicago, and community outreach coordinator for the Catholic refugee resettlement program in the Detroit archdiocese. She retains her role as communications director for the Dominicans while dedicating time to Cor Unum. She also writes regularly for the Springfield State Journal-Register.