March marked a full year since many schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Schools across the country shut down without much warning, transitioning to remote learning on the fly. It was a huge adjustment for students, parents, teachers, and administrative staff alike. With many Americans receiving the vaccine and reports of virus cases dropping, more schools are transitioning their students back to campus learning.
For some, this is an exciting time. Many students have been waiting for months to get back into the classroom. They get to see teachers they have only met through Zoom and see friends they haven’t connected with for a long time. The trials and tribulations of the past year have negatively impacted young people’s mental health all over the world, and now there are reasons to celebrate. At the same time, the pandemic is not yet over. Although many people are rejoicing over the transition back to school, there are plenty of people who are struggling with the decision to send their children back to on-campus learning.
How You Can Make This Transition Smoother
Parents, children, and teachers are all worried about contracting and spreading COVID-19 at school. It’s reasonable to be anxious about whether students will follow social distancing and mask protocols. After spending a year avoiding close physical quarters with other people, the thought of cramming 20 or more students into a classroom can cause uneasiness in children and adults alike. While school staff must follow strict protocols to make this transition happen, the thought of forcing many children to effectively social distance at school can seem almost impossible.
It’s understandable if you and your children experience anxiety or concern, as these are uncharted waters for everyone involved. As a parent, you have a complicated mission ahead of you as you attempt to manage your feelings and reactions towards this transition, reassure your children that they know how to be safe, and encourage them to be careful and flexible if the situation changes. Here are a few tips to help you and your children navigate this transition together:
Let Your Kids Come to the Table
Make sure to give your kids a voice. If your children tell you that they are worried about going back to school or are experiencing anxiety, listen carefully and validate their feelings. Give them a space to talk about it while also letting them know that their feelings are important to you. Do your best not to “feed the fear.” Instead, listen to their concerns and search for ways to help them ease or eliminate the stress they are experiencing. You can say things such as “I’m going to miss you too, but we’re going to have so much to talk about” or “Feeling worried is normal; I feel it too!” Giving your kids space where they are comfortable talking about their feelings is one of the best things any parent can do for their children.
Set the Emotional Tone of the Conversation
To set the tone for your discussion is to lead by example. If you approach the conversation about transitioning back to school from a place of anxiety, you’re likely to fuel your children’s anxiety as well. Avoid asking leading questions such as “are you nervous about going back to school?” Implications like these can cause your kids to believe that they should be more nervous than they are.
When answering questions, be sure to remain calm, even if you are struggling inside. If your child has questions you don’t know how to answer, you can say, “that’s a great question. I don’t have the answer, but we can find the answer together.” Before school starts, try making a list of the questions or concerns they may have and address them one at a time. Doing this will show your children that you take their concerns seriously.
Emphasize the Importance of Safety Measures
While you want to protect them, it’s important not to give your kids false hope. The reality is that we can’t promise them that they won’t get sick. You can express confidence that everyone is doing their part to minimize risk and keep everyone safe and healthy. Schools have taken the time to implement strategies to keep everyone as safe as possible before reopening. Remind your children that even though vaccines are becoming available to some, it’s still essential to follow safety protocols. Wearing a mask and practicing social distancing are the best ways to keep everyone safe, including you and your family, as kids start going back to school.
After a long year, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect our mental health. As schools shut down to slow the spread of the virus last March, we experienced a spike in the frequency and intensity of mental health symptoms in children and teenagers. As schools begin to reopen and attempt to implement on-campus learning, many children are expressing anxiety and concern for their safety. Although many people have received the vaccine and cases appear to be declining, the fear of contracting the virus is still very real, especially for kids being sent back to school to mingle with many others. There are ways to help decrease your child’s anxiety and worry as they transition from remote learning to on-campus schooling. If you have concerns about your child’s mental health, reach out to Achieve Concierge. Our team is dedicated to helping children and teens navigate mental health challenges and achieve lasting happiness. Call us at (619) 393-5871 to learn more.