The normal mixed emotions of going back to school have been greatly amplified this year. The massive relief of getting kids back to an academic routine among their peers has been offset by delayed starts, confusion over classroom protocols, and most of all, the looming threat of another lockdown. Every cough, sneeze, or high temperature strikes fear into the hearts of parents, teachers, and school office support teams.
If parents are stressed, school staff members are peaking. By the end of September, an elementary school office administrator broke down on a Facebook post. “I’m crying because I have to call home for a child who is sick and risk getting yelled at because I have now inconvenienced a parent who has to get a covid test for their child. I’m crying because I have been told to get my s**t together because a policy has changed and someone doesn’t agree,” she wrote. “I am crying because I have 400 children and 50 staff to help try and keep healthy & illness free during a pandemic.”
The measure to which families are stressed has a lot to do with economic privileges and financial sacrifices. In many families, dual incomes have become single incomes, or even no income. For others, a huge portion of income is now spent on full-time childcare or home schooling with tutors.
According to CTV: “A growing number of parents have made the difficult decision to pause or leave their careers in order to support their children as they navigate the new realities of the education system and the uncertainty of the new normal.”
Research by Pollara Strategic Insights revealed that women are more likely than men to consider leaving their jobs to devote more time to helping their children with school work, or virtual schooling, and to have turned down job offers or promotions because of the amount of family time they would take up.
“We thought early on that fear of getting sick would be the biggest source of stress,” Philip Fisher, Ph.D., the director for the Center of Translational Neuroscience at the University of Oregon told The New York Times, but as time went on, it was clear that parents struggling to meet their children’s basic needs were feeling the greatest ongoing emotional turmoil. As NYT describes, over 60 percent of caregivers who are experiencing extreme financial problems reported emotional distress, compared with just over 30 percent of caregivers who have no financial issues.
We didn’t need a coronavirus to tell us that financial stress takes a heavy emotional toll, but it is a strong reminder. With financial situations so much in flux, talking to a financial planner or credit counsellor can be a helpful step toward making mom and dad feel calmer and more in control during these challenging times.