The Great Covid-19 Back-To-School Dilemma

Lockdown is loosening and in the coming months schools around the country will start re-opening. So now, as with all things recently, the Covid-19 back-to-school debate is an emotional oil slick as parents scramble to figure out if this is indeed the best move right now. And whether or not they should do what the country asks or rather home school.

To make sense of it all myself, I headed online to develop an opinion of my own. But actually, researching this debate was the quickest way to make myself feel utterly stupid. Trying to make sense of all the Covid-19 back-to-school articles was like swatting virtual flies, and in just 30 minutes of reading, this is what I learned:

  • Kids are definitely not carriers of Covid-19. But they absolutely are.
  • Children are at risk of becoming ill with the virus. But also, they are totally immune to it.
  • Social distancing will never work in schools. But don’t worry, it probably will.
  • You should trust Government and send them back to school. Or don’t.

Good talk.

Making sense of the mental clutter

So, after clicking through all the facts and friction, I shut down my laptop and decided to just sit back and listen to what was happening in my own mind. What I came to realize was this: The glaring issue was that nobody really knows. I am the one in charge here. And I’m really not sure what to do! But Covid-19 aside, isn’t this generally the issue when it comes to parenting? We are solely responsible for keeping our kids safe and at the end of the day… it’s all a bit of a gamble.

It’s fallen into our hands

When the initial Lockdown was announced the Government was in charge. As frustrating as their restrictions were, we didn’t have a choice and simply had to listen to the adults at the helm. This took the weight off our shoulders and we all agreed to babysit. But now these adults have stepped back slightly and increased our curfew. They have handed it over to us to decide if we want to send our kids to school and embrace the Covid-19 back-to-school regulations or if we should rather home school them. In my humble opinion, this ‘iffiness” is what’s causing the online frenzy. Because if things do go wrong, there will be no one to blame… but ourselves. That’s a hard pill to swallow.

It’s okay to NOT know

Emotionally speaking, this pandemic has thrown all of us adults back into a childhood-state. It’s just like when we were kids:

  • we were afraid of the unknown,
  • we needed to be looked after,
  • shown exactly what to do and
  • end the day feeling safe and cared about.

This is all a stress response to a deep shock that the Pandemic has inflicted on us all. The kicker is that we aren’t really kids, we just feel like them. Yet we still have to play ‘mommy-mommy’ and make hard decisions with potential consequences. But here’s the thing: Actually it’s ok to feel a little wonky and to not be sure what to do. The truth is that no one in the entire world is a Coronavirus expert. And since most of us can’t become scientists or Government leaders,  all we can be… are parents. That’s the hardest job because we have to sit in the uncomfortable soup of not knowing what the right decision is. Let’s face it though, we never really know what we’re doing any way.

So should your kids look forward to Covid-19 back-to-school?

My advice is to embrace the state you’re in and take baby steps, controlling only what you can. The single most important thing you can and should do right now is assess what your immediate circle is able to handle going forward:

  • If your close family cluster includes anyone who is vulnerable or compromised, then it’s best to get in touch with your medical specialist to decide if you should err on the side of caution and keep your kids home a little longer.
  • If not, then there is sufficient evidence to suggest that going to school will have enormous benefits for your family’s emotional and mental wellbeing. Once back, do retain some sense of control by being a responsible citizen like getting involved at a class level to ensure health and safety procedures are followed and that your school is being held accountable.

The bottom line about the Covid-19 back-to-school debate

The ‘not knowing’ is the hardest thing about this pandemic. While there is a lot of conflicting evidence out there, governments would never re-open schools if they believed it to be a huge risk to our little ones. So instead of turning to the world at-large and online for answers, sit with yourself for a bit. Get to know that worried little voice inside and see what answers come. That’s pretty much all you can do for now. Because really, haven’t you been through enough?


    1. Daily Maverick
    2. Business Insider
    3. The Conversation
    4. Dr Luke On Call
    5. Freud, S. ‘Negation’(1925)

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Andy Cohen

Andy Cohen

Andy Cohen, a Psychoanalytic Candidate and Art Counsellor, TEDx speaker, author and mother of 2. Andy’s TEDx Talk “A mom can’t always act like a grown-up – here’s why”  gives a surprising reason why it’s so hard for a parent to always be the “bigger person”.

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