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A New School Year, A New Normal

How to talk to your kids about starting a new year with covid

It’s back to school time and most parents would agree, we are thrilled to finally send our kids off to an in-person school day. However, many children and parents may be feeling more anxious about starting this year as we face some unusal challanges. Many kids haven’t been in school for over a year and going back today comes with new rules such as social distancing and wearing a mask, more social interactions with peers and adults and new routines to learn.

Parenting has become more complicated dealing with more anxiety and uncertainty. How do we ease our children’s worries about a new school year, while reassuring children that it’s safe to be at school? Here are some pointers.

Set a Routine:

Having a predictable routine leading up to the start of school can help kids feel more secure. Start easing into a more structured schedule one to two weeks before the first day. This includes enforcing a regular bedtime, wake up time and mealtimes. Plan for extra time in the morning- especially the first few days. This will give you extra time to deal with tantrums or things that may come up without your child being late for school. Having this extra time will reduce your stress, making you better equipped to help your child. A lot of anxiety comes from the unknown, so having a plan or routine in place really helps.

Talk to your child:

When kids express anxiety about going back to school or covid related questions, lend a sympathetic ear and do not dismiss their fears. Kids are often reminded not to get too close to other people, to keep their masks on, to wash their hands frequently and use hand sanitizer. Anxiety is in the air and kids feel that. Some kids are wondering if it is safe to even go back. As parents, it is helpful to reassure kids that everyone is doing their best to keep things clean and we wouldn’t allow students back to school if we thought otherwise. Listening and acknowledging your child’s feelings will help them feel more secure. Show support and let your child know that it’s not only okay, but normal, to feel frustrated or anxious at times like this.

Manage Your Own Emotions:

Take your own temperature to make sure you aren’t passing your own stress onto your child. It’s possible that your child’s nerves mirror your own anxieties about the upcoming school year. It’s important to remain calm and collected. Your child is looking to you for reassurance and encouragement, so try to keep your own anxieties in check.

Know the Signs:

It’s normal for kids to have first day butterflies, but if these feelings seem to worsen, it may be anxiety. Anxiety can show up and manifest in many different forms. Anger, negativity, defiance, difficulty sleeping, lack of focus, head or stomach aches and avoidance are common ways a child’s anxiety can show up as something else. Reach out to a mental health specialist if you notice changes that seem to not resolve over time or contine to get worse.

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