Lisa Kelly knew this day was coming, but that didn’t make it easier. On Monday, August 23, the Leesburg mom left a third of her heart in Annapolis, Maryland, after moving the youngest of her three sons into a dormitory at St. John’s College.
“As we drove away, I realized that Tuesday would be the first time in 30 years that my husband and I would be living alone in our home,” she sighs. “I was wondering what’s in store for the next phase in our life.” Further complicating her emotions was the fact that Kelly’s husband was scheduled to return to his office that Tuesday after a long period of working from home during COVID.
Like many parents, the Kellys built their life around their children’s activities, shuttling them back and forth to school, club, and sports events. Suddenly, their calendar was empty.
The Leaves Aren’t the Only Thing Changing in the Fall
September has traditionally been a month of transition, but the effects of COVID greatly amplify emotions this year. As companies begin pulling at-home employees back to the office, many students are returning to in-person learning for the first time since the pandemic began. First-grade students are having to learn the lunch, library, and walking in the hallway routines that they couldn’t get online in kindergarten. Many high school and college sophomores are entering their new schools for the first time, because their freshman year was virtual.
Fortunately, there are ways to prepare and cope with life transitions. In Kelly’s case, she returned part-time to her previous nursing career and served as a vaccinator in the Medical Reserve Corps of Loudoun County. “We knew the kids couldn’t stay with us forever,” says Kelly. “I’m excited to have more time to try new things.”
Back to the Office
How adults feel about returning to the workplace greatly depends on their personal experiences during the COVID lockdowns,” Mitchell explains. For many, COVID imposed a sense of isolation and disconnect, so those individuals may welcome a return to more engagement and interaction,” says Tripodi. “Others may have found that working from home allowed for a better work-life balance, and are reluctant to surrender what they consider a more mindful, calm, and productive way of working.”
Individuals who experienced illness or loss from COVID may still be trying to balance the demands of work while navigating their own grief. “Those individuals may have barely had time to connect with family, hold funerals, or heal,” notes Tripodi. “Seeking mental health support from a therapist can provide strategies for coping.”
Return to School
Parents may have mixed sentiments about sending their children back to school. “Even under the best circumstances, working from home while overseeing a child’s remote learning required significant effort,” says Tripodi. “Parents should feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment for navigating this time and understand that it is also ok for them to feel relief – in addition to excitement – for the upcoming school year.”
Many parents are worried about the current health situation with regard to the Delta variant, intensifying concerns over separation. “Work closely with your child’s school and pediatrician to understand what practices will be in place and to make the decision that is best for you and your family,” advises Tripodi.
“Children are likely to need a lot of emotional validation upon returning to school. Some may be eager to head off, but others may not,” says Tripodi. “Anxiety can present differently in children than in adults. They may have more physical complaints, be more irritable, or experience changes in sleep or behavior.” If such behaviors do not eventually subside, discuss them with your child’s pediatrician.
For more stories like this, subscribe to our Education newsletter.