Episode 16: Navigating Back-to-School Anxiety During a Pandemic with David Thomas
Live Date: Monday, August 3, 2020
Show Description: On today’s episode, Heather speaks with David Thomas, a father of three, co-author of eight books, co-host of the Raising Boys and Girls Podcast, therapist, and Director of Family Counseling at Daystar Counseling in Nashville. Heather and Matt have been working with Daystar for nearly five years, and they truly believe in the wisdom that every person at Daystar brings to raising children. Heather and David talk about the collective anxiety of the pandemic on our culture, back-to-school worries, and how those are different this year, how to speak with your children about what’s happening right now, the beauty of family meetings, among many, many other topics for parents.
- In our country, anxiety is now considered a childhood epidemic, and David sees many families coming to Daystar to cope with and manage it. David says technology is a major driver for the upward trend in anxiety that generations before did not deal with.
- David talks about the worry and stress that comes with a new year at school. Unless we change jobs every single year, adults never experience that same yearly change and uncertainty again. Each school year, kids deal with new teachers, new ways of doing things, new schedules. That is the normal situation children face each year. But this year, we add into the equation the pandemic. David urges parents not to dismiss the stress of this school year and to continue to extend grace to ourselves, our families, and our children throughout the entire school year.
- As kids wrap up summer and head back to school, David recommends easing into the new routine – back-up bedtime, shift wake up calls, implement a little more structure, and little less screen time. This year more than ever, children will need a longer runway to get back into a school routine.
- David shares a story about getting his dog trained to be a therapy dog. When they were ready for their first visits, David was reminded that he can’t control the situation and that “anxiety travels down the leash.” The lesson there: if you are anxious, your kids will pick up on it quickly. Learn what settles your anxiety before trying to settle your child’s stress.
- But, David is not suggesting parents have no anxiety about what’s happening. He knows that’s impossible. He wants parents to use this as an invitation to conversation, to say, “Here’s what I’m feeling. How are you feeling?”
- Heather talks about many times, particularly in this season, where she’s felt like a bad mom – where she’s made a mistake, or said something she wished she hadn’t said, or felt like she’s doing it all wrong. David affirms that she isn’t alone in those feelings, and he invites her to anchor herself in what’s true. He walks through a four-part exercise to come to the truth where you ask: what I think, what I feel, what is true, and finally, what do I want to do with that? Your feelings and decisions should come from that fourth answer.
- “There’s still some residual of people believing that this process only exists for folks who have something wrong.” – David Thomas 17:57
- “Every one of us needs other voices in our lives – for every aspect of what we do. Relationally, vocationally, spiritually. None of us is self-sufficient for any aspect of our life.” – David Thomas 18:31
- “I think it’s so important to think about answering that question in the context of exactly what you just described – an unprecedented time that we have navigated as a culture. And, that we are all still feeling the residual of that. I don’t think we can pay enough attention to that, both for ourselves and on behalf of the kids that we love.” – David Thomas 24:39
- “Knowing your kid, what does it look like to lengthen the runway? And by that I mean stretching out the transition time of end of summer into the school year.” – David Thomas 28:45
- “I think of my two, and my two are completely different. What settles one is going to be a little bit different than what settles the other. So customizing it to the child and not just to your family in general, I feel like will be important.” – Heather Adams 31:27
- “I really believe in the importance of having at least one other parent in your life who is a bit ahead of you, somewhere between five and ten years, who can give you perspective on things that are coming and ways that we all need in different moments.” – David Thomas 42:23
- “We could speak for days on the onset of social media but one thing, sadly, that it has invited every one of us into – not just our kids, but us as grownups, too – is more comparison and more judgment. Now there’s an opportunity for that to happen in so many different ways and so many different layers of that.” – David Thomas 45:55
- “I have been called to be your parent – not their’s.” – David Thomas 47:06
- “Our one ground rule was everybody can share their feelings and concerns, but there cannot be any recourse to that person sharing it. So, you can’t get in trouble for sharing it, you can’t be defensive because somebody said something that bothers you.” – Heather Adams 55:35
- “Every other relationship in our lives, I got to choose in some way. I chose my spouse, I chose the place where I wanted to work, I chose the place where I go to church, I chose my friendships. All of those things, I had some kind of active role in. I didn’t choose the children that God gave to me. He gave me exactly what I needed.” – David Thomas 58:03
- “Maybe you don’t have enough truth-tellers.” – David Thomas 59:07
Resources and Links from Show:
- Daystar Counseling
- “Becoming A Dad: A Spiritual, Emotional And Practical Guide”
- “Are My Kids on Track: The 12 Emotional, Social, and Spiritual Milestones Your Child Needs to Reach”
- Sissy Goff
- Melissa Mre Trevathan
- Raising Boys and Girls Podcast
- Apple Watch