Back-to-school butterflies are common in the best of times, so it’s not unexpected if students (and their families) experience additional anxiety as we face untraditional challenges this fall. Here are some suggestions to help children cope and succeed.
With this beautiful and warm weather, it’s hard to believe that summer’s nearly over. Is your child feeling stressed about returning to school after spending several months at home? If the answer is yes, this is extremely common, especially as the ongoing pandemic adds an extra layer of complexity for everyone.
We have some advice and pointers for families to help work through this unprecedented time.
Keep communication open.
In a past post prior to the pandemic, Back to School Jitters – What Parents Can Do to Help, clinical social worker, Lindsay Ross, shared with our community a number of ways to assist your child, and they revolve around communication. This information was relevant then and it continues to be now.
It’s important to show your child(ren) that you’re available to listen to their feelings, as well as discuss and take steps to resolve some of the most common (and uncommon) sources of back-to-school anxiety – unfamiliarity for first-timers starting kindergarten/middle/high-school, change in teacher, adjusting back to routine, fear that nobody will understand what they are going through, and separation anxiety after spending months at home, just to name a few.
This leads into our second tip below.
Make action plans to tackle sources of back-to-school anxiety.
If your child is very young, uncertainty about the coming school year and dealing with new faces and new places is quite normal, even though they may not be able to articulate it. Drive or walk with your child to visit the school – even seeing just the exterior may help, as you likely will be unable to visit or tour the classroom now.
Older kids can probably identify some of the sources of their back-to-school anxiety. Will they have friends or encounter bullies? Are they behind grade level? Will they perform well academically? How much have people changed over the summer?
Great. Now that you have a list, where to start? For academics, getting organized and establishing a solid homework routine will help. Online tutoring and academic coaching may be helpful to tackle executive functioning skills to support students with time management and meeting deadlines.
On the social side, you can encourage healthy relationships between your child and any friends or relatives to remind them that they can always lean on these people too as part of their support network. Should needs be greater there are many caring professionals who can be accessed for support.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help when needed.
With so much uncertainty, you may observe that your child could benefit from additional professional support and not know where to begin.
Your child’s pediatrician is a great starting point to check in with your kids to support their mental health & wellness, share resources, as well as refer to therapists, or other healthcare and educational professionals as necessary.
Another current concern includes students falling behind academically and suffering from low self-esteem as a result. Parents with students who are craving enrichment are also wondering about their children being stimulated in this untraditional school year. Online tutoring is a helpful and safe way to help children fill in gaps and reach their full potential, all while building confidence and promoting a love of learning.
Practice self-care and establish calming routines.
There are a great number of healthy calming routines that your child may benefit from. We recommend that you teach your child a few strategies that they can use, because some might be more appropriate in some situations than others!
Mindfulness is one great stress-reduction trick if they have quiet time and space. Focusing on your breathing and meditation techniques is only part of this method. It’s also about decluttering the mind and visualizing how to tackle stressful situations!
Exercise is a great option for energizing kids. (And it’ll be great for active-time and recess at school, too.) While the weather is nice, a good run around the park is perfectly acceptable!
Hobbies of all kinds are another fabulous way to unplug for a few minutes. We especially love reading and colouring books!
Most importantly, don’t forget to talk with your child – letting them know that they’re not alone in feeling back-to-school jitters is more helpful than you know. Wishing you a smooth and successful start to September!
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