7 Ways to Cope with the Postponement or Change to the First Day of School

Have you and your children been looking forward to the opening of school but now most everything has changed due to COVID-19 and social distancing?

It can be disappointing for both students and parents. It also creates hardships on many families with figuring out childcare or how to be your child’s teacher and keep working so you have an income to pay your bills.

Though we had hoped that by now we would be well past the isolation and cancellations caused by COVID-19, we seem to still be right smack-dab in the middle of it. This continued unknown is causing even the patient personalities to be anxious and frustrated.

The ritual of the first day of school is supposed to be right around the corner….but recent days have taught us that everything can turn on a dime and we don’t know what will happen for schools and students.


Rituals are important rights of passage for everyone in our society, so cancellations can be sad or frustrating. Missing out on them may make you to feel like you have unfinished business.

Why are rituals so important?

Rituals mark ends and new beginnings. They symbolize saying goodbye to the old and moving forward to the new. They represent a new significant change and the end of something old. A perfect example is the beginning of the school year.

What makes up a ritual anyways?

Whether a ritual is social, religious, or educational they all have certain criteria:

  • A ritual must mark significant progress in life.
  • A ritual must notify the interested segment of society of that progress.
  • All rituals have an unchanging purpose.

Let’s take a look at going to kindergarten or changing school from elementary school to middle school or from middle school to high school, for example:

These grades mark significant progress in life in that it honors the end of one level of schooling and is symbolic of moving into adulthood.

The first day of school is a big deal in my family!

  • It is proceeded by going to school shopping and getting school supplies (there’s something very special about a new binder and fresh notebook!).
  • I’ve seen posts about parents taking Kindergarteners-to-be school shopping even though the child was staying home and doing school virtually. The parent wanted this rite of passage for their child and themselves
  • There are new school clothes, shoes that are sparkling clean with no marks or dirt.
  • We always have a special breakfast of pancakes and sometimes warm cinnamon rolls!
  • And of course, pictures! Lots of pictures.

With the cancellation or postponement of the opening of schools, and possibilly sports and band events, we may have another year filled with disappointments. Could there by another year of no proms or championship games or graduations? I hope not, but our future is still unknown.

We may begin to realize or at least have in the back of our minds, that we will have another school year of unmet hopes, dreams, and expectations on how you thought this year would play out.

And what are unmet hopes, dreams, and expectations?

UNRESOLVED GRIEF – Which is the normal and natural emotional reaction to loss or change of any kind.

So let’s look at ways to move through grief over the postponement of changes in the ritual of the beginning of school.

  1. Remember that grief is normal. It is not a personality condition or a mental disorder.
  2. Talk about it. Find someone who will listen and not try to fix you. Ask them to be a heart with ears.
  3. Do of much of your normal activities leading up to the opening of school. L As things open up you can add things at a later date. Just because the ritual can’t happen in our time frame doesn’t mean it can’t happen at all. It’s okay to acknowledge your disappointment then plan around it.
  4. Do something special on that day. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to replace a loss, but you can figure out creative ways to honor the special day, as long as you are honest if you’re still sad or disappointed.
  5. Unite with your community. Have you heard about all the things local neighborhoods are doing to still give out backpacks, school supplies and new shoes. Do something to honor the day or people if that feels right for you.
  6. Reach out to others that would have been involved. Ask other parents what they are doing. Be sure to tell the truth about yourself first (which will make it safe for them to share their honest feelings).
  7. Remember that you’re not broken, so you don’t need to be fixed. Grief is an emotional experience, not an intellectual one. The plain truth is that it is hard to cope with the cancellation of important milestones in your life. There’s no need to act like it isn’t.


Coming in the Fall:

Most parents want to do whatever they can to protect their children from painful moments and events that may touch their lives. In trying to “protect” them, however, we often do not realize that we are inadvertently passing on to them the same bits of “misinformation” on how to deal with the grief that we learned as children. The best thing a parent can do to help their children through painful life experiences is to model their own healthy way of grieving loss and changes. Join me for an introduction to the Loss & Grief Recovery Method® to see how you’re doing.


FREE Discovery Sessions:


August 9, 2 p.m. EST.

The Zoom Link can be found at ttps://walkingwithjoy.wpengine.com/events/


August 13, 6 p.m. EST. Masks and social distancing required. Limited Seating.

The Avenue, 141 N. Martinwood Road, Knoxville,  TN  37923

For more information on both go to https://walkingwithjoy.wpengine.com/events/


For information for a free Discovery Call about The Grief Recovery Method® go to www.walkingwithjoy.com or call 865-963-9221.