Ease the transition
Help your child navigate the school year with less stress
By Sonia Duggan
Students and families faced many challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. The shift to remote learning and shortened school days, forced students to adapt to virtual school on the fly as parents adjusted to working from home full-time and managing their children’s studies.
Given those challenges, it’s no wonder so many families are looking forward to what promises to be a more normal school year in 2021-22. But that return will pose its own unique challenges as well.
Knowing that some students and families may be undergoing a certain amount of anxiety and stress regarding the return to in-person schooling, counselors at local school districts are prepared to help.
Amy Andrews, Wylie ISD Counseling Coordinator, said WISD counselors plan to introduce themselves to students within the first few days of school.
“Counselors will present guidance lessons and activities about nerves and anxiety and will teach students ways
to reduce stress including journaling, muscle relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, and more,” she said.
At home, Andrews said parents need to be careful about how they react to their children’s fears.
“Telling your child ‘don’t worry about it’ or ‘there is nothing to worry about’ is not helpful for children,” Andrews said. These types of statements can be invalidating and cause further doubts and uncertainties in students.
Instead, she offers a few hints for things to help ease the anxiety.
• Get up and Move – Moving around helps the brain settle down.
• Deep breathing – Try this exercise with your child. Breathe in for five seconds, hold your breath for five seconds, exhale for five seconds.
• Name the problem and feelings – Naming problems make them less scary for children. Talk through possible solutions and remind your child everyone has anxiety in certain situations.
Wendy Cain, Princeton ISD coordinator for mental and physical wellness, suggests families have conversations about going back to school and brainstorm strategies to help their child still feel connected to home.
“These might include things like notes in their lunch boxes or backpacks, taking a special family photo on their electronic devices that can be viewed during the day, and making a list of ways that families can be remembered (family jokes, songs, etc.),” she said.
In addition, Cain said it’s important for parents to be available.
“School looks different now and many students may have different reactions to this change in environment,” she said. “There may be behavior changes such as acting out in younger children or being quiet in older students.”
As the parent or caregiver, students look to the adults in their lives as a cue for how to act or react in situations, says Cain. “It is important for the adults in their lives to model good coping behaviors for them by being calm, honest, and caring.”
Cain said during such challenging times this may not be easy for everyone, but we need to help students develop an ability to be “comfortable being uncomfortable.” By assisting them in this regard, you are building resilience and the ability to cope with future anxieties.
It’s not just the kids that need taking care of — parents and caregivers need to remember themselves as well.
“Our capabilities to support others is limited by our own physical and mental well-being,” Cain said. “Find what works for you as a method of self-care (nutrition, exercise, quality sleep, speaking with others). Don’t try to manage everything on your own if you are struggling — ask for help from other family members, friends, or professionals.”
Returning to full-time, in-person learning after the pandemic may be especially challenging for children of all ages, but by adequately preparing your child in advance, they will have the much-needed support at home and at school.