September always symbolizes “Back to School. . There’s great anticipation and excitement about the new school year…New teachers, a new crew of kids in the class, new class schedules & whether your kids admit it or not, they’re mostly excited about getting back to “learning.” Perhaps, not the homework, tests and studying that go with it!
But, for parents “back to school” symbolizes your kids being out of the house & being back on a predictable schedule.
However, this fall may look unlike any other “back to school” after the pandemic left our children mostly learning remotely for the better part of a year. As the “NY Times Parenting Section” put it, we are entering into a “Back to Abnormal.” As parents, we all have concerns about the safety of sending our children back to school this year, particularly parents of kids under the age of 12 who have not yet been vaccinated. Most recent data says that schools are not “big spreaders” of Covid 19 & with safety measures in place, experts are urging parents to get their kids back to “in school” learning. Research shows that kids learn better by being physically present in the classroom and that the benefits to their social/emotional learning and connections to their peers far outweighs the risks.
However, many of your children may be having apprehensions, anxieties and fears about going back to school. In addition, as parents we have gotten used to having our children around more this past year and it may be causing some sadness and anxiety for you.
What are some things we want to look for and discuss with our children before going back to school after being away from their normal school schedule for a year?
- Depending on your child’s age, start talking about your school’s safety precautions. Review it with them so there are no surprises on the 1st day.
- If your child is ambivalent, or just plain tired of wearing a mask, remind them that as hard as it is at times, it’s so important to keep themselves “safe” as well as those in their community. This reinforces the idea of doing something to help protect other people. For your older children, the notion that they are doing their part for the greater good; a form of social service.
- Hold a family meeting. Talk to your children about their worries & concerns. What are they excited about? What might not be so exciting as they go back to school? Give them the “space” to talk about all their feelings.
- Expect some anxious, nervous feelings. Many kids are anxious about getting sick. If this sounds like your child, reinforce the positives of “mask wearing” & social distancing. Let them know they are doing everything they can to keep themselves healthy.
- Do a regular check-in on your child’s mental health. High rates of depression and anxiety have been prevalent during this past year. Look for changes in behavior & symptoms of low mood like isolating, sleep difficulties, lack of motivation and interest in normal activities.
- Your child may be faced with anxiety about being separated from you after all these months of being together. For some kids, even kids around 9 or 10 may be experiencing feelings of “separation anxiety. Make sure to validate those feelings with remembrances of what they like about school.
- Post their new schedule on a white board” or large calendar in the kitchen, or other common room. Make sure to add in all activities as well. This can help ease any anxiety if kids know what to expect.
- We may all face a bit of sadness & anxiety seeing our children go back to school. We have gotten used to them being around more & are worried about their health and safety. Make sure to take care of yourself, kids are very sensitive to your emotions. “Self care will be key.
As we head back into our new “Abnormal” what will you be taking with you from the experience of last year? What have you learned about yourself as a parent? Was there anything unexpected that brought you great joy? What are you most proud of in yourself as a parent? What are you most proud of in your children?
And finally, despite not always feeling so “upbeat” about heading into another “uncertain “school year, just know that after the experience of last year, you are more prepared and a little bit wiser to head into this new school year.
Reach out and let me know how things are going in your family.