The 7-Word Mantra All Parents Need to Say Out Loud to Themselves As We Head Back to School

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A new school year looms (for many, it’s already started). But in addition to all the logistical worries—school drop-off and pickup, what to pack for lunch and more—parents are facing yet another year of fear and stress and uncertainty thanks to the pandemic and the Delta variant. (Oh, what we wouldn’t give to have even a brief moment where our brain could just be still.)

Now more than ever, we need some wisdom to live by—a mantra if you will—to calm our daily nerves and ground us on the most trying of days. Per Dr. Lea Lis, an adult and child psychiatrist, calm can be found by reciting the following seven words: Control what you can, ignore the rest.

Let’s go back to our original list. Drop-off and pickup? Yep, you can control that. Put the initials of who’s covering what day right up on the pretty paper calendar you hung in the kitchen. Done. What to pack for lunches? You’ve got a whole new meal planning strategy you’re ready to put to the test.

Obsessive thoughts about the unpredictable parts of back to school? Do your best to put a pin in them for now. “There are so many unknown things in life; you can get the flu or you can get appendicitis. However, you can’t control these things, so—again—it is best to focus on what you can control and ignore the rest,” Dr. Lis explains. (For example, you can control mask wearing and hand washing and making sure every eligible person in your family is vaccinated, but maximizing safe precautions is the best you can do.)

And for the moments when the overwhelm truly hits, basic techniques—like paced breathing—can do a world of good for you and your kids. (Per Dr. Lis, sit or stand with your back straight and your body relaxed, then slowly inhale for five seconds, hold your breath for another five before exhaling for five seconds. Then hold again for another five.)

It’s true—none of this easy, but the tiny steps we can take toward self-care in the moment can make all the difference.

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