Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week: How do you cope with the feelings of guilt when your kid is the only one of her friends still full-time remote schooling? Have your own questions? Email [email protected]
Dear Scary Mommy,
My daughter is 13, which is a very stressful age for her and me, for many reasons. She’s had a hard time this past year, like all kids — particularly older ones — especially when it comes to missing her friends. She’s definitely an extrovert and thrives when she’s around people she loves. Unfortunately, none of her other friends are still fully remote with school and most of them (well, their families) haven’t been taking the pandemic seriously enough for me to feel confident about her hanging out with them unless it’s outside and distanced. She wants to be back in school so badly, and I want that for her, too. I just don’t think it’s entirely safe (we live in an area where even masking rules are lax and community spread isn’t under control quite yet). How can I help her cope?
Oh, please let me just send a big virtual hug your way for you and your daughter. Being 13 is so hard in general and I can only imagine that having to deal with your first real teenage year during this insanity is an emotional rollercoaster. You’re such a good mom for knowing your child as well as you do, and for trusting your parental instincts even when you’re in the minority. That is some tough shit, and I’m giving you a high-five even if you can’t see it.
One way to address this with her is to emphasize the importance of consistency. If remote learning has been working well for her all year (and even if it’s not great, it’s what she’s familiar with through the peaks of the pandemic), changing things up in such a big way during her last grading period/semester isn’t ideal — for her or for your family. You’ve all had enough change to adapt to this year, I’m sure, and you’re at the finish line of the school year.
Plan something for her to look forward to at the beginning of summer. Maybe it’s a family getaway for a weekend to a place she enjoys going. Maybe it’s a mother/daughter day — mask up, go shopping, go for a hike, or go for a day trip and a long drive. Maybe it’s a socially distant s’mores party in your backyard with her friends, if you feel so inclined. Plan more than one thing if you’re able to. It always helps to have something to anticipate when you’re going through a “meh” time.
I’m sure you already have done this, multiple times, but it can’t hurt to just remind her that lots of families have been handling this pandemic in lots of different ways. Her friends and their families aren’t necessarily wrong or bad, but they’re making choices your family just isn’t going to make yet. Millions of people are getting vaccinated and there is a very bright light at the end of this tunnel someday, but for now, we’re still in the tunnel. And we’re going to be in the tunnel until herd immunity is achieved and children are able to get vaccines.
While we can enjoy a little more than we did last year at this time, we still have to be cautious. Children can and do spread the virus, particularly older children and teenagers. Someday she’ll know all of this was done out of pure love for her and your family’s protection. For now, she may know it but she’s still a kid who misses her friends — and FOMO is SO BIG at that age, remember? Ugh. It’s hard. But she has a great mom and if she has some things to look forward to (and hey, maybe she’ll be back in school next year!), she’ll get through it. And so will you. Hugs.