Back to school has always been a time of transition. The end of summer. The apprehension. The excitement. And if it came with a bit of anxiety for your kids, well, that was to be expected. But back to school means something completely different this year as we deal with COVID-19. This year, the usual back-to-school pressures may be eclipsed by a more potent set of worries. The fundamental one: will our kids be safe? Some parents have answered this question by opting for a virtual classroom. For those whose children will return to a school, all the new safety procedures—and whether they will work—is provoking anxiety both in parents and their children.
At CMHA, we went in search of the best advice for dealing with the fears and stress of returning to school and discovered there are many ways to tame the worry.
Have honest and open conversations. Ask them how they’re feeling and help them put their feelings into words. Naming and labelling feelings can help calm a child. Listen and let them know you understand, and that they’re not alone. Know that COVID may not be the only worry on your child’s mind. They may have everyday fears that come with going back to school.
Reassure them. Focus on the things they can control and the active role that they can play in staying safe: like following the teacher’s instructions, social distancing and keeping their hands clean. Remind them that it won’t always be this way. It is just for now. You can also let them know they’re not alone: the other kids are feeling nervous too.
Be aware of your own anxiety. If you’re feeling unsafe about your child going back to school, they will very likely pick this up. Reach out to your support network, including other parents to discuss your concerns, commiserate and brainstorm solutions.
Don’t forget self-care. Make sure you and your children are eating and sleeping well, and generally taking care of your well-being.
Tap into their excitement. Help them remember the best parts of school. It’s been many lonely months for them. Remind them they will get to see their friends and teachers every day.
Remember you’re resilient. And so are your children: Six months ago, you might have wondered how you’d do it. With schools shut tight and your kids at home, it might have seemed impossible. But somehow you made it through. However hard it’s been, and might continue to be, remind yourself how resilient you and your children are. Notice, though, if you or your child are having trouble coping and know when it’s time to reach out for help.
With these tips in mind, we wish you all a healthy and safe back to school!