It’s that time of year again…summer is coming to an end and families are preparing their kids to go back to school. But this year, the word “back” will mean different things for different families. Some students will be physically going to school, some will be learning remotely, and others will be doing a combination of both. While it’s normal for kids to feel anxious at this time of year, those feelings may now be intensified because of the ongoing pandemic and the disruptions it has caused. Here are some tips to help parents ease their children’s stress as the school year resumes.
1. Smooth the transition: Whether they’re learning at home or at school, help your child pick out a special outfit to wear on the first day of school. Pack their favorite lunch and put a “love note” note in their lunch box for the first few days of school. If possible, walk to school and enjoy some quality time together.
2. Keep the lines of communication open: If your kids are going to go back to the classroom, talk about their concerns, health-related or otherwise. Listening without interrupting and validating their feelings can help relieve anxiety and make kids feel supported.
3. Set a schedule: If your kids will be learning at home, schedule daily blocks of time for classwork, physical activity, and homework. Be sure to include some fun time in the mix, too. Planning ahead will be helpful so that everyone knows what to expect.
4. Accentuate the positive: Discuss what your child likes most about school. If they have attended in the past, talk about some of the classes or activities they have enjoyed the most—many of them will still be implemented online if kids are learning remotely!
5. Designate an ally: Find a teacher, school counselor, or nurse who is willing to be a resource for your child when they are feeling anxious or need help solving a problem.
6. Practice safety guidelines at home: Have kids practice wearing a mask, washing their hands, and standing at least six feet apart before the first day of school. This can help ease their discomfort when they have to do these things “for real” at school.
7. Stay connected with others: While social distancing is necessary, it can be especially frustrating for children. Luckily, there are ways to connect with others while remaining safe. Schedule video chats or virtual game nights with family and friends, draw pictures for classmates, or write letters to teachers or friends. Decorate signs to put in your windows for neighbors to see when they walk by.
8. Look out for signs of anxiety: One of the most important tools in managing anxiety is recognizing early warning signs. These can be different for each child and include biting nails, fidgeting, and increased irritability. If your child’s anxiety persists or starts to become debilitating, it may be helpful to consult a mental health professional. Our licensed JFCS counselors are here to help. Please reach out to us at 856-424-1333 or https://jfcssnj.org/counseling.