The last few weeks are starting to feel like a repeat of 2020 with COVID-19 cases on the rise yet again as our kids return to school. You and your child are likely anxious about what the return to the classroom will look like this fall. Here are four tips on how to talk to your kids about the transition:
Listen to their concerns. Your kids have had almost two years now of being worried about COVID-19. We’ve had several “stop and go’s” with the return to normal life, and their worries are valid. Will they be socially distanced in the classroom? How about the bus or cafeteria? Will sports, clubs, and field trips return to normal? We still have a lot of unanswered questions, and talking to your children about their worries, validating their concerns, and approaching how to handle one thing and/or day at a time can alleviate some anxiety.
Talk to your kids about COVID-19 precautions, both required and optional, to prepare. You know your child better than anyone, so you know if they will be upset if her friends aren’t following the school-required precautions such as masking. Talk to them about how they can modify their own behaviors as needed and what the risk is to them. For younger kids, many of their favorite cartoon characters had books and videos last year about COVID-19 precautions in school. Watch or read those pieces with your kids and talk about what your family’s guidelines will be. Setting boundaries for potential COVID-19 exposure can take out the confusion. For example, wearing masks or distancing at big school events can help your COVID-cautious child relax in the setting. Your family can continue to use hand sanitizer when out and wash hands with soap and water when you come home from school or work. Setting agreeable goals can help everyone, including the kids, feel more comfortable.
Get back into a routine. This is a common tip every year, but routine is especially important if your kids haven’t been in person at school since March 2020. For younger kids, start shifting bedtime and practice waking up a little earlier. Make up songs about washing hands so mundane task are more fun. If your child is going to school for the first time ever, like a kindergartner, read books about what to expect at school. Show them what you’re packing in their bags for the day, including the lunch. Taking the unknown out of the day can help ease nerves for all involved.
Ask your kids to talk every day. This can be as easy as, tell me your favorite thing that happened today. Making sure your kids are engaged in school, activities, socializing and keeping up with their mental health is a good way to track what is happening. If you notice anything off, please contact a mental health professional to discuss mental health. Early signs of depression can include changes in eating or sleeping patterns and socializing. Any drastic swing one way or the other can be a warning sign. The last 18 months have been tough on all of us and kids too, toddlers to teenagers, are feeling the weight of the pandemic. Encourage your kids to return to the activities they loved before the pandemic, like sports or music, as they can do so.
For more tips on how to prepare for back to school, visit the Child Mind Institute.
Youth Villages is one of the largest providers of services to children in Tennessee and a national leader in children’s mental and behavioral health. The organization has been recognized by the Harvard Business School and U.S. News & World Report, and was identified by The White House as one of the nation’s most promising results-oriented nonprofit organizations. Learn more at www.youthvillages.org.
Crisis services are available 24/7 if your child needs support. Call 855-CRISIS-1 or text CONNECT to 741741. If you have thoughts of suicide, contact 1-800-273-TALK to be connected to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. For resources on coping with mental health struggles, visit Suicide Prevention Lifeline or National Alliance for Mental Illness.