All of the normal back to school activities are happening this year. You and your children are likely gathering supplies, adjusting to early starts, and settling in again to homework and bedtime routine and excitement.
Yet, the events of the past school year aren’t yet a faded memory. In fact, the possibility of pandemic protocol still looms over many school systems as virus variants circulate among us. So, in addition to backpacks and lunch money, it’s important to give your student the tools to cope with back to school anxiety too.
Here are a few tips to help your child go back to school with less anxiety:
Acknowledge the Pandemic Past
You and your child may have struggled last year. There’s no shame in acknowledging that. Whether you pushed through or find yourselves needing an academic “do-over”, consider yourselves survivors.
Be kind to each other as the school year begins. Talk about how tough last year was and agree that you will do your best to just take one day at a time. Let your child know that you will go slow together. Assure them that you are on the same team, whatever the school year holds.
Talk Through the What-ifs
Virtual/remote learning, socially distant play dates, cabin fever, and Covid fear were your child’s everyday reality for months. They may now worry that, at any moment, life and school could be upended again. Though you can’t promise that their school year may not be interrupted, you can remind them they have the tools to get through it.
Remind them that they are strong and able to bounce back. Reassure them that you and the adults in their lives are better able to support them. Most of all, give them a safe space to lay out their concerns. Listen well. Take the time to make sure they feel heard and that you fully appreciate their concerns as they resume school life away from home.
Talk About Expectations
For all of us, life seems to be filled with a constant barrage of new regulations and restrictions. Imagine how much children are being asked to manage and adhere to daily at school.
So, if your child is feeling anxious and uncertain about the changes and expectations ahead, discuss these things too. In an age-appropriate manner, go over a typical day. Talk about the bus stop and school bus rules. Run through normal activities like cafeteria time as well as special considerations like mask guidelines.
Simply walking through the day mentally with your child can help them feel less anxious and remind them that there are helpers along the way to guide them.
Set Routines Sooner Rather than Later
Pandemic or no pandemic, one of the most helpful back-to-school things you can do is establish a daily routine. Routines help school-age children feel comfortable and secure. Take time to determine what works best for your family. Consistency is key.
The following tips are generally good places to start:
Set regular times for waking up and going to bed each day
Eat a healthy meal each morning and nutritious lunch at school
Encourage some form of self-care in the morning and after school
Stretch, exercise, pray or meditate together as a way to relieve anxiety and connect
Consult a daily planner or calendar together to ensure you all feel prepared for the day’s activities
As routines become habitual, your student will likely feel less anxious and begin to look forward to school and all the day holds.
Seek Help and Support as You Needed
The truth is, the pandemic took an emotional toll on kids. Loneliness, anxiety, and depression are very real fallout for many students. If you see that your child needs more care and support, it’s okay to seek it. It’s a very good thing to discuss this with teachers, coaches, and other adults your child will connect with as well.
It’s also a good idea to consider a therapist too. Why? Identifying and processing emotion can be a tall order for kids, especially amid all the changes we’ve endured. With all of the uncertainty that still lies ahead, it’s important to check in on them and provide an outlet for their thoughts and feelings.
If you and your child need more support heading back to school please read more about child counseling. When you’re ready, please reach out for a consultation too. We’re here to help.