We all thought it was over. We expected that September 1st would usher in the beginning of the school year and the end of Corona. We were counting down the days until our kids grabbed their new backpacks, headed out to a new school year, and gave us our life back. We hoped that we never have to hear the word Zoom ever again.
We were wrong.
As the school year unfolds, we are hearing more and more of school-based infections. As the cases of Corona increase, schools are converting back to distance learning. We are back to the nightmarish juggling of multiple kids, needing multiple computers, logging on to Zoom meetings at different times, as we try to keep our house running, and hold on to our jobs and our sanity.
I hear time and time again from my clients and acquaintances that the stress of managing distance learning is equal or even greater than the stress associated with the actual pandemic.
The assortment of stressors that has plagued us over the past few months has created immense family turmoil. Studies are revealing that the mental health upheaval created by this pandemic is substantial. Over the past six months we have seen an increase in domestic violence, separation, divorce, childhood anxiety, teenage depression and suicide ideation. This pandemic has wreaked havoc on our mental health which is why focusing on school at this point is a mistake.
The great humanistic psychologist, Abraham Maslow, provided us with an inimitable theory explaining human nature. His idea of the “hierarchy of needs” suggests that humans need to satisfy basic needs, such as physiological and safety needs, before they attempt to address higher needs, such as a need-to-know and education. If these basic needs are not met our ability and motivation to satisfy higher needs is diminished or non-existent.
Families are suffering. Our children are in pain. We need to focus our energies on providing for our children’s most basic needs including nourishment, safety, and belongingness. These needs are much more important right now than making sure that children know the alphabet, understand the Pythagorean theorem, or can recite the multiplication table.
We hope that one day our children’s education will once again be a high priority. However, with all due respect to teachers around the globe, as this pandemic continues to run wild across the world and our children are in constant stress about their life and about the future, we need to focus on our family’s most basic needs.
Do our children feel safe? Is our home atmosphere relaxed and calm? Are our children eating well and getting a good night’s sleep? Do our children feel that they are loved? Are siblings getting along? Are we providing a good model for them for how to face uncertainty with serenity?
Our children’s other needs will be met in the future but, as this pandemic continues, we must remember Maslow and focus on what our families need now.