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Back to School Jitters… Pandemic Style

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by Rebecca Sontag

“Mom? How long were the school buildings shut down for a pandemic when you were a kid?”

Like countless parents, I have spent unending hours seeking expert and sage parenting advice from books, respected websites, doctors, teachers, family, clergy and friends. But not one single time in all of my preparation or imagined parenting conundrums did I ever consider having to answer this. Pandemics never came up, not once.

It’s not just parents. No infectious disease specialist, economist, politician or teacher has ever seen anything like this. Every day seems to bring with it a new discovery of this stealthy and insidious foe. Guidelines change, as do safety recommendations, with everyone learning as they go.

What if there is a second wave or even a third? Will in-person classes resume at full-capacity? Will dorms open up? Will cafeterias serve lunch? Will buses operate as normal? When will things go back to the way they were? Or will they? How can we answer these questions for our children when we don’t know the answers ourselves?

So much is up in the air and certainty is hard to come by. At least that’s one thing that hasn’t changed: Nothing in life is ever certain except for God. God’s love and care for each and every one of us remains steadfast and strong forever and always. God will get us through.


Perhaps the reason Jesus tells us over and over to fear not, cast aside our worries and trust in Him is that He knows the lesson is hard. And it is certainly not a fair exchange – we give God our worries and He gives us peace. As parents, we want to do the same for our children. Here are some ideas to help you along.

Make yourself available to listen to your children and ask open ended questions. The uncertainty the coming school year holds is bound to cause some feelings of anxiety and angst, which are likely to ebb and flow. Listen to the concerns. Don’t dismiss them. Jesus never said, “You’re overreacting,” “Get over it” and certainly not, “Well, at least…”

Take their concerns seriously and listen to what’s really behind their fears. Is your first grader distraught because the back-to-school party was canceled? Maybe you can help her send cards to her classmates and arrange some time for video chat. Is your college junior afraid of missing an important internship opportunity? Perhaps a college advisor can help direct him to a remote opportunity to keep on track for his professional goals.


When in doubt, check with the experts. Examining the lives and meditating on how the saints managed anxiety, fear and worry can be an excellent source of comfort and insight. Here are several examples to get you started, but most important is prayer. Pray through their intercession for help.

“God commands you to pray, but He forbids you to worry.” – St. John Vianney

“Let nothing disturb you, nothing cause you fear. All things pass; God is unchanging. Patience obtains all.” – St. Teresa of Avila

“Do not have any anxiety about the future. Leave everything in God’s hands for He will take care of you.” – St. John Baptist de La Salle

“I plead with you – never, ever give up on hope, never doubt, never tire, and never become discouraged.” – St. Pope John Paul II


Only God knows everything. When will the pandemic end? What will school be like this year? Will there be choir concerts, football games, field trips? God knows. We don’t. And that’s OK. Lying is a sin. Lying kills trust. And telling children soothing lies helps no one. Sometimes the answer is as simple as, “I don’t know, but let’s pray for God’s help.”

We have to be honest with ourselves, as well. Sometimes, we need expert help. Doctors, mental health professionals and social workers are all part of God’s plan, too, and might be the answer to your prayers.

To download The Divine Mercy Prayer click  divine-mercy_print-out

This article appeared in the August Edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here

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