It’s difficult enough during a “normal” new school year to get kids ready to go back to school after a long, lazy summer. But this certainly hasn’t been a normal year. During the last school year, many kids went from remote learning to hybrid to in-person and back again. As head-spinning and stressful as it was for parents and teachers, it’s been more anxiety-inducing for young minds.
Most schools plan to hold classes in person this year. Some children may be excited about this. Others will be anxious or have mixed feelings. Kids’ anxiety may be rooted in the fear of the unknown:
- Will school look different?
- Will desks still be far apart?
- Can I hang out with my friends?
- Will I be safe at school?
This year may require more preparation to get into school mode, but these tips can help.
Preparing for A New School Year
Here are seven tips that can help make it easier for kids (and for you).
Every state has different regulations, and individual school districts may have their own requirements. Find out from school administrators what their safety plans are and whether COVID-19 vaccines will be required for specific age groups. Read all information they send out. You may need to do something ahead of time, and you want to prepare kids for what to expect when they get to school.
Be the Role Models
In a Daily Progress column, child psychiatrist Roger Burket, MD, stresses that the way parents are handling the pandemic will reflect on their children. It's important to make your well-being a priority too. It's reasonable to limit the news or social media if it fuels anxiety.
The world experienced a collective trauma. It’s normal for people to be anxious about resuming regular activities such as going back to school. Although you might feel some relief that you and your child will be getting back into a routine, recognize that it might not be easy at first for them — or for you.
Burket says families should work together to maintain routines or establish new ones. For example, if your child is looking forward to a track meet and it gets canceled, go for a family jog instead. Encourage frequent contact with friends or family through technology.
This year, more than ever, kids will likely enjoy the tradition of buying school supplies and a few new outfits for the school year. They might even enjoy grocery shopping to select some foods that will make brown-bagging more exciting.
Throughout the pandemic and during the summer, sleep cycles and mealtimes may not have been as structured as usual. Don’t wait until the night before school starts to get your child back into a school routine. Gradually adapt to earlier bedtimes and earlier wake times, so kids are ready to start school well-rested.
Ask your child open-ended, positive questions about how they’re feeling about school. Instead of “Are you nervous?” try asking:
- “What are you most excited about for when school starts?”
- “Which of your friends will you be happiest to see?”
Watch for signs that your child is struggling. Symptoms of stress include
- Angry outbursts
- Changes in appetite
- Disrupted sleep patterns
Worried About Your Child's Anxiety?
Trouble sleeping, frequent stomachaches, or an inability to relax can all be symptoms of an anxiety disorder.
Stay in touch with your child’s teacher in case anything is happening at school that you should be aware of. If you’re unable to manage your child’s anxiety, get help from a school counselor or mental health professional.
The pandemic disrupted everyone’s routines and made many people – especially kids – question their safety and security. It may take a little time for people to get comfortable going back to the way things used to be, and that’s okay.
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