Episode 26: Back-to-School Anxiety During the Pandemic with Dr. Tamara Soles

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“As we shift to going back to school during this pandemic, there is an opportunity for everybody to ask, ‘what do you have control over in your life?'”

In this episode of the Numinus podcast, Dr. Joe speaks with Dr. Tamara Soles. Tamara is a psychologist specializing in child mental health and well-being. Her practice focuses primarily on coaching parents on how to best support their children in developing resilience. She is the founder and director of The Secure Child clinic, which provides therapy for children, coaching for parents, and workshops and classes. Her website DrTamaraSoles.com has lots of useful content for parents as well as links to her podcast, This Hour Has 50 Minutes.

Dr. Soles and Dr. Joe spoke about:

  • The challenges associated with back-to-school in general
  • The unique challenges of back-to-school during the pandemic
  • How Tamara helps parents cope with the anxiety through meaning-making
  • The impact of government and school board safety plans
  • Early warning signs of distress that parents and teachers should be looking out for
  • Tamara’s best strategies to navigate back to school anxiety
  • How to think about supporting and disciplining a child in difficult moments

Connect with Dr. Tamara Soles on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and her website.

Connect with Dr. Joe on FacebookTwitter,LinkedIn and Instagram

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Here are some highlights from their conversation:

What are some of your go-to tips or strategies that you advise people try on when they need to support their children?

As always, regulate yourself first. Make sure that your own anxiety as a parent is in check. I have had clients, even last week, who were saying, ‘My mother has this health condition. And I’m so afraid that I’ll go to school that I’ll forget to put my mask back on. Or I’ll forget to wash my hands after eating.’

They’re taking on so much of that responsibility, and feeling like it’s their burden to keep their parents safe. And trying to help that child and that family put the responsibility where it belongs. In other words, saying, ‘Your parent is aware of their health condition. And they’re aware of the precautions that are being taken by the school. So if they’re choosing to send you, then they are accepting that the level of risk is safe for your family. Which means that they know and trust that you will do the best that you can.’

And especially in a child–yeah, there are going to be times where they don’t remember to wash their hands. And there are going to be times where they don’t put their mask on all of the time.

So helping that burden shift off of the child’s shoulders and onto where it belongs in terms of the responsibility.

So the parent taking care of themselves, helping a child see what is in their control, what’s their responsibility, and then the overall wellness things that we would always talk about. So for example, deep breathing, meditation, using a bed time guided meditation, starting the day with rituals–I think rituals are very grounding practices that help reduce anxiety and build connection, which is the one-two punch for helping a child through any situation.

So when we can for example, start the day with saying the same thing or singing the same song together to get us going in the morning. Those rituals provide predictability to kids. And predictability in these times is so necessary when so much is unpredictable about this virus and our current situation.

So introducing ritual, introducing predictability, introducing meditation or deep breathing, making sure that we’re moving and exercising, fresh air, getting enough sleep. So all of those foundational things that we would do to help treat anxiety in any given situation. It’s just the necessity for it right now is higher.


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