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Permission Slip to Prioritize Mental Health over E-learning

This is your permission slip. This is your therapist's excuse.

7th grade history class is not essential. 3rd grade math is not essential. Your 6th grader taking daily showers is not essential (although certainly preferred). Fighting every single battle is not essential.

In 2020, many parents have felt overwhelmed trying to figure out what is best for their kids when thinking about all of their needs: health, social, academic, etc. Many have found that screen time restrictions have laxed, bedtimes have gotten later and later, and showers aren’t happening as frequently. I don’t know any child that is thriving with e-learning. Parents feel at a loss about managing emails from teachers, zoom meetings for classes, “new math”, not to mention their own work demands. Many find ourselves distractible, struggling to focus, lethargic, and doomscrolling. We are struggling as individuals, we are struggling as parents, and our children are struggling too. 

The truth is 2021 is not going to be a lot different. We are looking at several more months of feeling the threat of COVID and all the stresses and losses that are connected to this pandemic. Our lives have been changed. This will be shaping, not just for us, but for our children. My grandparents that lived through the Great Depression would never throw away something that could be reused. Hand sanitizer will be second nature to our kids for the rest of their lives in the same way. 

As an Adoption Therapist and adoptive parent, I have walked with several families through difficult seasons of parenting. The loss experienced by adoptees is a trauma that can complicate many areas of life and growing up. While I could speak for hours (I have) about loss and adoption, adoption trauma, and adoptive parenting, that isn’t the point of this blog. 

When faced with the need to keep a child alive due to suicidality, impulsivity, drug use, etc., it can be easy to let go of arguments about homework. A grade can be repeated. When a child questions if they are loved, it is not worth arguing about a messy room or dishes left on the counter. It doesn’t have to be a life or death situation for parents to consider how they will prioritize what they want for their children. 

Your child’s mental health matters. Your child’s relationship with you matters. Your relationship with your child matters (which means that your mental health matters). 

Living in stress for an extended period of time inhibits the ability to learn and remember. It isn’t just e-learning that is making all of this so difficult. Your child is struggling academically because their brain has been hijacked by stress. Your child wants to play video games or watch movies because they are seeking dissociation from the stress. They need that - in doses, not in binges. They also need distraction from the stress by doing fun things like playing games as a family, learning to bake a new dessert, or building a tree house. What they don’t need is talking about the news around the dinner table. 

As much as I feel for and care about the teachers and school counselors who are doing their best in an impossible situation, parents, you don’t have to keep them happy. You don’t even have to answer every email. Please, be kind, but remember that you have permission to prioritize. 

Is it most important to you that child accomplished things on a certain timeline or that they were done with full effort? Learning is more important than grades. Even getting into college isn’t going to matter if your child is too depressed to go to class in the Fall. 2021 is not the year to worry about if your child is ready to move out and live independently or if they stay up late reading. 2021 is the year to teach your child that emotional health matters, relationships matter, and priorities matter. 2021 is the year to teach your child healthy physical and emotional health habits. 

This is your permission slip to ignore emails, to prioritize concerns, to skip a class, to create your own schedule, to flex on screen time occasionally, to say no to every single extra thing, to go to bed early, to withdraw your child from school and try out home schooling, to do what is best for your child and your family. 

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