Dear Miriam | Family, Self Come First in Crisis

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Dear Miriam,

My children have experienced a lot of mental health issues while in quarantine. I’m dreading the school year because I am struggling myself during this time, but I want to be strong for my kids so that they feel comfortable coming to me with their feelings. I am going to hire someone to be with my kids all day to help them with their school work. This will be a financial burden, but I feel it is important for their mental health and mine. I also recognize that many families can’t afford this, and I feel guilty about how unfair that is, but what else can I do?

Signed,


The Impossible School Year

Dear Impossible,

While I could have written this question myself, I didn’t, but the fact that someone submitted it to me and I saw so much of myself in it, just proves that this is a pervasive, critical issue facing American families right now. Though not everyone has children or feels directly impacted by schools going virtual, in fact, the effects of school closures on our communities, our workplaces and our society are widespread and far reaching. If you read this question and thought, “Eh, not my problem,” please, think again.

At various points during this pandemic, the idea of the resulting mental health crisis has popped up in articles, on social media and in conversation. But without easier and more affordable access to mental health care for more Americans, the conversation is largely theoretical. Hotlines, helplines and free or low-cost therapy exist, but they’re hard to find, and especially for kids, not the same as in person support. I hope you are getting therapy, either as a family or individually, and I hope you are finding ways to take breaks, get support and be honest with people in your life about how difficult things have been.

You need to do what you need to do for yourself and your family. While there are serious equity issues to consider, when every individual family is in crisis mode, no one can give equal weight to everyone else’s problems all the time. You should absolutely hire someone to take some of the burden off yourself and to give your children as positive an experience as possible for the coming school year.

You can also consider getting involved in your local public school to see how you can support other families during this time. Consider giving money or time to families who are unable to hire help. Encourage your kids to see how their schooling and experiences and privilege fits into the larger picture of 2020 America and the problematic inequalities surfacing and resurfacing at every turn. But what you do for your family doesn’t need to take away from your concern for other families, and your first priority understandably needs to be your own children, and yourself.

Be well,

Miriam

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