Going back to school is an exciting time, but it can also mean varying levels of stress and anxiety. Adapting to a new schedule can be daunting for some children and tricky to navigate for parents.
This year, going back to school comes with extra anxiety surrounding the pandemic. Luckily, there are some practical strategies that can make a big impact in easing anxieties linked to starting the school year.
Here are five tips for dealing with back to school fears that you can apply to a wide range of ages.
1. Introduce a new routine gradually
When transitioning from the carefree summer months, setting up a routine that eases your kids into the new school year will help them get into a comfortable groove.
Discussing and setting rules ahead of time for homework, studying, screen, and play time on school days is crucial so expectations are well-known beforehand.
2. Mentally prepare them
Bringing up the subject of school can get the academic mindset flowing as summer starts to wrap up. Chat about plans for the beginning of the school year, focusing on the fun, positive aspects, including the things they enjoyed about the previous year.
To get the dialogue rolling, you can ask questions about what your child is looking forward to, like their favorite subjects and classes. This can get them talking about school in a happy, healthy way and encourage them to mentally prepare for the upcoming year.
For example, you could ask:
- What are you excited to learn about this year?
- What worries you about going back to school?
Letting them know that any concerns they have are normal and that you support them is important as well.
- What was your favorite project from last year?
Asking open-ended questions will get you more than just the classic yes or no answer.
- When I was in your grade, we had reading competitions with other classrooms and the winners had a pizza party. Does your school do anything like that?
Connecting to your child by sharing something from your own school days will likely pique their interest and help them to open up.
- How would you like to celebrate your first week of school?
Planning a fun tradition that you do to celebrate the first day or week of school will give your child something to look forward to and a sense of accomplishment.
Free resources to try. Here are a few resources about going back to school during the age of Coronavirus for children of every age group:
- Early Years: Sesame Street: Getting Ready for School is a toolkit filled with printables, videos, and puzzles from a classic, long-standing resource that just has a way with explaining topics of all kinds.
- Primary School: Coronavirus: A Book for Children addresses worries surrounding covid for children ages 5-10.
- Secondary School: This Back-To-School Toolkit from Mental Health America promotes positive mental health approaches for older children and teens.
3. Ease into a sleep schedule
Sleep. Is. Crucial. Getting a good night’s rest is the foundation of a successful day, and school year as a whole. Creating a school sleep routine before the end of summer break will help avoid the bedtime battles when you get to back-to-school-eve.
Gradually set a new bedtime to ease out of the lax summer schedule to make this a smoother task. Moshi is a great resource, combining mindfulness and sleep through enchanting audio-stories, music, and soothing sounds all within one magic app.
4. Connect with teachers and classmates
Establishing a connection between your child and their new teacher will ease some of the nervousness of the first day.
Teachers are usually willing and happy to support a positive experience for your child. Prepare an email to send your child’s teacher over the summer with a short intro and any questions you or your child have about the upcoming school year. Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling.
Linking up with friends or other students from the same classroom can add an extra level of comfort for your child too. Planning a playdate with a familiar face will make a big difference and give them something to look forward to as school time gets closer.
5. Get organized as a family
Sometimes just getting things in order before starting something new can create a sense of readiness.
Creating a family calendar to stick on the wall or fridge is a fun way to involve the kids and provide a visual source to refer back to. If they take part in making it with you, they’ll feel included in the plan-making, helping create a sense of control and, in turn, easing nerves.
Encouraging your child pick out school snacks or making lunches together is another great way to get them involved. We all know food is a great motivator! Including a surprise note for your child to find in their lunch bag is a little boost of love that’s sure to provoke a mid-day smile.
Preparing your child ahead of time for what to expect can prevent those frazzled, anxious feelings and open your child’s mind up for fun and learning instead. Utilize these tips to help to ease the back-to-school jitters for you and your child.