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Family Conflicts With Return to School

As the start of the new school year draws closer, many families will start to experience both the positives and the drawbacks of returning to school in person. While our students’ return to school is an amazing step towards ending the pandemic, it is also a warning to some families that difficulties within the family unit will be on the rise.

Returning to School Post-COVID

For the first time in over a year, classes for children (and life-long learners, too) will resume in person for the Fall. While this may come with a lot of positives, such as meeting new people and having more accessible learning, it also comes with some drawbacks related to the family unit and adds to the complexity of family law situations in split households.

There are many benefits to school being in-person starting in the Fall:

  • social gatherings will return,
  • gathering with other people without the fear of getting COVID-19,
  • students will have the opportunity to experience a normal school day without being glued to a computer,
  • elementary school parents will get to see their kids in plays and concerts,
  • high school students will get to attend homecomings, proms, and graduations, and
  • college students will get to have a normal freshman year and senior graduation with their friends and families all in attendance.

You see, school returning to in person is a symbol for the reopening of the United States itself. This is one large step towards saying goodbye to the pandemic. Sure, things won’t be the same, not like before the pandemic, but just the ability for schools to reopen in nearly full force is a blessing amongst all this hardship.

On the other side of things, there are some negatives about returning to school in the Fall. Even though most people dreaded lockdowns, it provided many families with quality time together. Tensions may have been high at times, but discussing problems face to face is a much healthier form of communication than text, email or phone. Some parents were able to bond with their distanced children, and some parents were able to see their kids who have been away at college for the last few months or even years. Of course, managing a career while taking care of your children at home has been no easy task for working parents, but this time together is something that can’t be replicated after the pandemic ends.

Return to School and Divorce

On this same note, it’s important to discuss how the return to school and the reopening of the country will affect couples, parents, and their families. As we’ll discuss in one of our upcoming YouTube videos, divorce rates have actually been on the decline during the second half of the pandemic. While it’s true that fewer couples have been getting married, many couples have made deeper connections and have a newfound appreciation for one another. The Institute for Family Studies suggests that there may be a period after the pandemic ends where divorce rates rise. However, they also note that the decreasing trend is likely to continue over the next decade. So, although the predicted general trend is that divorces will continue to fall in the U.S., divorces will likely rise as the country opens up and students return to school. This will undoubtedly be difficult for many students who have already been hit hard by the pandemic: their start of a long-awaited, normal year may be accompanied by parental strife in the family.

Aside from the students themselves, many parents will undoubtedly face difficulties as they return to work. As we discussed in one of our previous blog posts (which you can check out here) working moms have faced great difficulty rejoining the workforce. From the stress of mothers resuming their careers to managing their children’s transition from online to in-person school, it’s unclear what kind of toll this will have on the family unit. There’s no doubt that stress will rise, and–although there may be a spike in divorce rates–many families will grow resilient enough to handle these hardships.

The return to school will also be a new frontier for parents who were already divorced during the pandemic. How will they handle their children’s transition from online to in-person learning? Well, as the National Law Review suggests, parents in this situation should consult their allocation of parental responsibilities (APR) order, also known as their parenting agreement. This agreement will help the parents make the best decision for their children by making them ask themselves questions like: do we have joint-decision making about our children’s education? Will returning in-person be dangerous for our child? Do we agree on vaccinations for our children? Talking this through is important to co-parenting successfully. We love the resources at Hello Divorce for this sort of thing. Check out their parenting resources online here: https://hellodivorce.com/kids/.

The Separation Between Students and Home

For some students, the first year of their new school was completely online. This is especially true for high school and college students who haven’t yet experienced their first year in a new school. These are critical times in a teenager’s life, and it can be hard to adjust to a way of life that you were meant to discover over a year ago. It’s during these times that kids begin to learn independence, social skills, and crucial time management skills. How will this new wave of students react to their “first” year at school?

This year, there will be 17.5 million students attending college, and nearly half of that number will likely be comprised of freshmen and seniors. These two classes will be the first post-pandemic to have a normal first and last year of college, while those in the middle can only hope for a normal last year of college. While college kids may be ecstatic to leave the house or their cramped dorms and meet people, the same can’t be said about some younger children.

Unfortunately, separation anxiety has grown more common in children (and pets) during the pandemic. As child psychologists Jennifer Keluskar, PhD, Debra Reicher, PhD, and child and adolescent psychiatrist Judith Crowell, MD, explain, there are many factors that contribute to a child’s development of separation anxiety. For example, if a parent leaves the room but still remains in the house, the child may become uncomfortable and angry when the parent is not there to engage with them. Another example is if the parent is still working: the child knows what’s going on in the world and may be fearful that their parent will get sick or never return home, resulting in anxiety every time their parent leaves for work.

Keluskar, Reicher, and Crowell also explain that the overwhelming amount of educational resources and online schooling has led children to become “too comfortable with remote learning.” They fear that some children will not want to return to in-person schooling because staying at home with their parent feels safer, easier, and simply less anxiety-inducing.

So, What Does This Mean as Students Return to School?

Overall, these next few months will be difficult for many as students adapt to their new, in-person classes and parents slowly begin returning to work. For the last two years, COVID-19 has stopped students from making social connections and experiencing a typical day at school. However, the return to school marks a milestone for the United States, a symbol that we’re one step closer to being done with the pandemic. Although it’s exciting, it won’t be easy for everyone: families won’t have as much quality time together, divorce rates among married couples may spike, and young children may face separation anxiety as they return to school and their parents return to work. However, the American people have grown resilient during the pandemic, and even though times may be tough this Fall, it’s nothing we can’t handle.

Need Legal Help?

If you are in need of criminal defense or family law help, consider reaching out to Colorado Lawyer TEam for a free 30-minute consultation. Find more information at https://CoLawTeam.com or call 970.670.0378.

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