Back-to-school season is always a time of nerves, adjustment, and -- let’s be honest -- straight chaos. It is a time of getting back into routine and preparing for the year ahead. Now, we find ourselves also trying to navigate what a (somewhat) post-pandemic world looks like in our schools. Parents may be unsure of how to answer certain questions or help calm anxieties in their children about what the year is going to bring. With so much up in the air, it can be difficult to feel comfortable moving forward.
Five Tips To Tackle This Back-to-School Season:
- Have a conversation about any anxieties or worries. Hold a family meeting and ask questions! This will offer a safe space for everyone (including yourself) to voice what is on their minds. What are some things that everyone is nervous about? What is one thing you’re excited about? What are some questions that we don’t have the answer to right now but can figure out together to provide some comfort? Addressing that it’s okay to be feeling any of these things will not only provide all with the opportunity to become more aware of what they’re feeling but encourage future conversation.
- Get back into a healthy routine. Working from home and entering the world of distance learning may have led to some less than desirable habits in our routines, only to be followed by summer. Take the time to mindfully set a routine together for your day. These changes will not become second nature overnight so make sure you provide ample time to get into it. This will provide the whole family with a structure that can be a comfort in a world where little has been constant.
- Practice good hygiene. Beginning or refreshing hygiene habits before the school year starts will help cement these habits and decrease the chances of something being brought home. Check with the school to see what mask policies will be, remind them to keep their hands away from their faces, and put emphasis on washing hands for at least 20 seconds. To demonstrate why this is so important, have a fun experiment using something such as flour or glitter. This will show them that not washing long enough or just using water will leave behind germs the same way it does the glitter or flour.
- Be as flexible as you can. I know, I know -- this is not as easy as it sounds! However, this is a learning curve for everyone involved and being able to model flexibility can be a positive learning experience for your child. And, being flexible and understanding is one of the most valuable things we can do right now. Communicate with the school regularly to stay on top of new or changing protocols and learn what the plan will be for the year. Take the time you need to adjust and know that it is not a perfect science, and like yourself, everyone is just doing the best they can.
- Be proactive about mental health. We all just went through a pandemic together. We don’t know what effect that will have in the long term and are still learning about how it is impacting all different ages now. Stay aware of any changes in your child and don’t be afraid to ask if something is going on with them. Be present when you’re with them and do your best to be consistent. Lastly, don’t be afraid to have your child check-in with a mental health professional if you feel like they need additional support.
This blog article was contributed by Megan Price, LMSW; Therapist at Nexus-PATH Family Healing.
Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 45 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org