managing back to school anxiety for parents during pandemic

For most of us, this year's return to school doesn't look anything like what we remember from years past. Concerns about how the virus will unfold in the coming months, combined with uncertainty about how children will be able to learn this fall—whether in-person, full-time remote, hybrid learning or pandemic pod—is resulting in a steady state of stress for parents.

Is there any way for us as parents to reduce our anxieties about the start of this unprecedented new school year?

As a meditation teacher and a mom of five kids between the ages of 4 and 13, I found a number of mindfulness strategies especially helpful this past spring when I had to quickly transition to my new role of teacher and tutor in addition to working from home.

My pandemic anxiety "prescription" involves daily and weekly strategies to ward off stress, along with advice on what to do if you get triggered unexpectedly.

Daily techniques to manage back-to-school anxiety

To manage the overwhelming feelings brought on by the pandemic and the start of school, it is essential to establish a daily anxiety management routine to tap into your inner calm and institute a baseline level of serenity in your life.

Some daily calming techniques that I have found helpful for myself and my clients include mindfulness meditation, journaling and yoga. In particular, mindfulness meditation is a wonderful tool to keep you in the present moment so your mind doesn't spin into a negative spiral of possibilities.

If you've never meditated before, I recommend trying out a guided meditation app and starting off with just a few minutes each day. Whatever daily anxiety reducing activity you choose will set a peaceful tone for your day that will trickle out to the rest of your family.

Weekly strategies for back-to-school anxiety

When you are in a constant state of stress, it is also helpful to have something to look forward to in the near future to help curb your overwhelmed feelings. I like to set up an end of the week celebratory moment for both myself and for my family.

Setting a weekly celebration moment for family—as well as one just for yourself, mama—will help you cope with the challenges you face during the week, because you know you have something fun to do at the end of your week. My personal celebratory moments are self-care strategies, such as at-home facials, baths or alone time. For our end-of-week family celebrations, we make a plan to do something different from our daily at-home pandemic routine: a backyard movie, an online escape room or simply getting take-out from a new restaurant.

These weekly celebrations help remind us that even when times are tough, we can still take a moment to celebrate our life and our time together as a family.

Coping techniques for when you're in a triggered state

Has your child's school decided to return to on-site learning? Or maybe the hybrid format or homeschooling is adding pressure to your already full plate? No matter how much you try to avoid anxiety triggers, it's likely that something will pop up to send you into a negativity spiral.

When you find yourself riddled with anxiety, you can utilize breathing techniques and affirmations to offset a panicked state.

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Find your power, mama—you've got this

Breathing techniques help us switch from a state of stress—the "fight and flight" response—to the "rest and digest" state, via a slow and deep breathing pattern. One breathing technique to try during your next stress spiral is to inhale to a count of four seconds and exhale to a count of four seconds. Then make each subsequent inhale/exhale cycle one second longer and continue this pattern up to a count of eight seconds, if that's possible for you.

Another great strategy to try when you are in a triggered state is to utilize the power of affirmations. An affirmation is a simple phrase that you repeat to yourself that provides you with comfort, strength and support. Here are some great affirmations to use during this time of uncertainty:

I am safe.

I am healthy.

I am strong.

I am brave.

I can do this.

Repeat these affirmations to yourself when you suddenly get triggered and need to calm down fast.

The start of school—in whatever format—during a pandemic is a difficult endeavor for both our children and us as parents. But managing this unmanageable situation with some semblance of grace is possible if you arm yourself with stress-reduction strategies for daily, weekly and triggered moments of anxiety. This three-pronged approach can help you stay calm, even when everything feels like a struggle. And when you can achieve a state of calm, your family can, too.

Josephine Atluri is a mindfulness and meditation expert.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


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Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Meri Meri: Decor and gifts that bring the wonder of childhood to life

We could not be more excited to bring the magic of Meri Meri to the Motherly Shop. For over 30 years, their playful line of party products, decorations, children's toys and stationery have brought magic to celebrations and spaces all over the world. Staring as a kitchen table endeavor with some scissors, pens and glitter in Los Angeles in 1985, Meri Meri (founder Meredithe Stuart-Smith's childhood nickname) has evolved from a little network of mamas working from home to a team of 200 dreaming up beautiful, well-crafted products that make any day feel special.

We've stocked The Motherly Shop with everything from Halloween must-haves to instant-heirloom gifts kiddos will adore. Whether you're throwing a party or just trying to make the everyday feel a little more special, we've got you covered.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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