group of elementary school kids go back to school wearing masksIt’s been a topsy-turvy year and a half! Now, school is getting ready to open up again, and while getting kids ready for back-to-school is a yearly tradition, this year may have some added issues.
Last year was full of unexpected home-schooling and part-time days, with some kids going to school for just a couple of days a week. It seems every school tried to deal with the pandemic in its own way. We were in unchartered waters. This has left some children feeling a little lost, anxious, and unsure of what this school year will hold.
So, how do we prepare our kids to head back to the classroom this year?

1. Adapt to what your child needs.

Every child is different. Some kids will be chomping at the bit to get back to school and see their friends. On the other hand, some will feel very anxious and unsure of how this year will go. Our kids have been through a lot of turmoil.
Adjust to your child’s needs. If your child is ready and excited to go, encourage that – don’t put any negative thoughts in their head by asking if they are nervous. If your child is feeling uneasy, then address those issues head-on.
You will also want to take your child’s age into account, whether they are starting a new school or have other changes that may add to their anxiety. Transitioning from middle school to high school, for instance, would cause some anxiety under normal circumstances. But add the repercussions of the pandemic, and their nerves can be elevated.

2. Ask Questions.

It is tempting just to become a cheerleader when talking to your child about going back to school, but that may not be what they need. You might feel if you act excited and sure of how great it will be, they will feel this way. However, this may just shut them down, and they may not share their fears with you because they don’t want to disappoint you.
A better approach is to ask the questions, such as:

  • How do you feel about starting school?
  • Are you excited to see your friends?
  • Are you looking forward to your classes?
  • Do you plan on playing sports or joining some clubs?
  • What are you looking forward to the most?
  • Do you have any concerns at all?

Getting them talking will allow you to know where they are in their heads and what you need to do to prepare them. Some kids will need more intervention and support to prepare for school, and others will need less. The important thing is to figure out what exactly each child needs.

3. Start setting routines.

Routine is very comforting to children, whether they realize it or not. But, unfortunately, many kids have not had much of a routine for the past 18 months. So don’t wait until school starts to start your school routine. Here are four things to try:

  • At least a week before school starts, have your child go to sleep at their school year bedtime and set their alarm. This way, they get up and get moving at the time they will need to for school. That first week won’t be such a jolt to their system.
  • Have them pick out their clothes for the first week, to avoid that dreaded “what am I going to wear today?” panic in the morning.
  • If your child will be attending a new school, visit the campus ahead of time and walk to their class or classes. Check out where the cafeteria and bathrooms are, along with the office. Knowing their way around will help alleviate a lot of first-day stress.
  • If your child’s school requires masks, make sure you have a supply of masks that your child is comfortable with.

Feeling prepared and all set for school will help decrease those feelings of anxiety.

4. Reach out and accept help.

If your child is having a hard time with the idea of going back to school full time, contact the school. They will have resources you should take advantage of.
Communicate with your child’s teacher or teachers before school begins. They will appreciate the heads up that your child is anxious and can offer extra support. Also, inform the school counselor so she can keep an eye out for any issues.
Consider counseling. It can be an enormous help to children of all ages. They say it takes a village to raise a child, which is very true in this day and age. Make sure your child has access to all the help and resources available to make their transition back to school as easy as possible.

5. Take a deep breath.

We all want to protect our children from fear and anxiety, but that is not always possible. What we can teach them is how to deal with those feelings.
We can use our knowledge and experience to guide them in the right direction. Teach them how to acknowledge their feelings and to reach out for help.
They need to know they have your unconditional love and support. If they feel you are calm and understand their feelings without judgment, they will find the courage to face what causes them to feel nervous.
Give your child a big hug and share one of my favorite quotes with them:
“Next time you’re stressed, take a step back, inhale and laugh. Remember who you are and why you’re here. You’re never given anything in this world that you can’t handle. Be strong, be flexible, love yourself and others. Always remember – just keep moving forward. Move on.”

Lorenzo Dozier
Perspective means everything these days. Model calm, happy feelings, and you will be surprised and how contagious that is. Good luck with the new school year. Let’s make it a great one!