This year, back to school may feel a little different than usual. Due to the pandemic, there may be adjustments to in-person learning, new routines, and you or your kids may be experiencing a bit more anxiety than usual. Read on for some tips on preparing for back to school for both you and your children.
Adjustments to in-person learning
Although many kids may have been in school at some point during the 2020-2021 school year, there are still likely a few changes to in-person learning this fall. Find out what your child’s school is planning and talk about these changes with your child. Plan ahead on how to deal with changes that may feel more significant for your family. You can also spend time talking through different scenarios with your child. Ask them what they might do in specific scenarios, like if they are wearing a mask and feeling like they need a break or some fresh air.
With all of the changes, many kids may have difficulty focusing on schoolwork or paying attention. This is common and it can be helpful to talk daily about the changes as kids experience them. Some adjustments may feels awkward for you or your kids–remember that others are likely feeling the same way! It’s also important to remember that some of the changes may be permanent, so maintaining a flexible and adaptable attitude is important. Sometimes this is easier for kids that for parents!
Many students experienced a drop in grades due to virtual learning. It’s important to know that if your child is going back to in-person learning for the first time, their grades may not suddenly go back up or change overnight. Many students find it incredibly helpful to transition back to in-person learning, but some students still struggle with academic performance after returning. Try to be positive about the future when talking to your kids, including about grades. Talk to them about what they feel they need to succeed–this could be help with homework or even a tutor.
Social anxiety is a common feeling for kids when heading back to school, especially those who haven’t done much socializing due to the pandemic. Like grades, know that your child’s social life may not come back overnight. It may take time to connect with friends, especially with barriers at school like staggered lunches and social distancing. If possible, try to get your kids to connect with their friends before school starts. This can increase their confidence and increase social interactions. Students may also be experiencing other anxieties, like feeling worried about getting sick at school. Before school starts, practice calming and grounding techniques kids can practice when feeling worried, like deep breathing.
Forming new routines
A week or two before school starts this fall, start adjusting to new bedtimes and establishing new routines. Remind kids to keep up with good hygiene habits such as frequent hand-washing before and after eating and when returning home. Give kids time to talk about their worries, fears, and excitement about preparing for back to school–build this into your routine. Remember to check in on kids’ mental health and don’t hesitate to see a professional if they seem to be struggling or not themselves.
Communication with teachers and counselors
Talk to your child’s teachers about back-to-school plans, and ask any questions you need to about cleanliness and protocol. Encourage your child to keep open communication with their teachers and their school counselor, especially if they are concerned or worried.
In conclusion, it’s important during this time to validate your child’s anxiety or fears. Be honest and positive but realistic about the situation. Remain as predictable, stable and consistent as possible for them. If you are struggling to stay present with kids and show compassion, reach out to a mental health professional who can support your parenting during this time.
Are you looking for more support for yourself or your child? Please reach out to us. Our team of therapists is here to provide support and guidance. We look forward to connecting with you.
Kate is the Founder and Clinical Director of Sage House Counseling & Art Therapy. With nearly ten years of clinical experience, I partner with you to connect back to your authentic, true self. The self that desires happiness, abundance and greater self-compassion. I work with clients just like you because I believe we all have the innate ability to heal and grow when we are heard and supported.