These past 18 months have been challenging for us all! In general, not being able to see our loved ones and all the social distancing/safety protocols is a challenge in and of itself. Then as parents there’s been the added challenge of becoming our child(ren)’s teacher. And our children have been going through all the same challenges that we have. So it’s understandable that there might be some back to school anxiety when there hasn’t been before COVID-19. If the idea of going back to school is causing some anxiety, here are a few things to try and remember to help support your child(ren).
The first and probably most important thing to do is to acknowledge and empathize with what our children are feeling. I know that as parents, and adults, we often want to jump to problem-solving to help our children feel better. If their anxiety/feelings are running high then they’re not going to be able to contribute, let alone listen, any ideas to help come up with a plan. As Dan Seigel says, you have to name it to tame it. This is especially important as children are leaning to use their words to express their feelings and what’s helpful to deal with them.
Another important thing to remember when dealing with anxiety is that information can be very helpful. Our brains like to come up with all kinds of ‘what ifs’ and knowing what to expect can help stop these ‘what ifs’ from taking over.
Each school board had updated their safety protocols for the upcoming school year. Here’s the plan for the Halton District School Board. Some of these protocols are similar to the past school year. It’s important to review all the safety protocols with your child. This way they will know what to expect, but also because it will show them how the schools are working to keep them, and everyone, safe. Make sure to read the protocols on your own first so you can anticipate any questions they might have.
For some children it’s also helpful to know in advance who their teacher is going to be and who will be in their class. This information can be a little trickier to find out. Often administrative staff are in the schools one to two weeks before the school year starts. If this is something that your child is anxious about, you can try to contact the admin staff. But do remember there’s a lot to do before the school year starts so it may take them some time to get back to you. In the future this is a question you may want to ask in June when they’re putting the classrooms together. Then if you’re able to find out who the teacher will be you, or your child, can check with your network to see who else has that teacher.
With all that said it’s important to use your judgement regarding what information you share and when. Of course you want to make sure that the information is age-appropriate so that they understand. You also want to make sure they have the information when it’s helpful. Too much too soon can be anxiety provoking. You’re the expert on your child so use your best judgement. And if this is new territory for you know that it’s okay if you need to adjust your plan. That’s part of parenting.
I hope you have found this information on supporting your child with back to school anxiety helpful. If you have any questions please contact me. Also stay tuned for my next post on supporting the mental health of virtual students.
P.S. – don’t forget to add face masks to your back to school shopping list!