Adjusting After the COVID-19 Chaos of 2020
It’s that time again, time to hear the morning rush. “Time to get up! Where is my backpack? Did you brush your teeth? Did you pack your lunch? Let’s go, we are going to be late!” Yup, it is time to prepare for Back-to-School. This school year will be the first day back in school since the COVID-19 pandemic. This year everyone is back in the classroom, and this will take some getting used to after doing virtual learning for so long. The virtual learning may have created some not-so-good habits, may have broken various routines, and even may have created some social anxiety in some students. This new school year is an opportunity to start a new chapter to reach for new goals, restart your routines, and build new positive habits.
It is so important to keep the lines of communication open between you and your children. It may best to also observe your child’s behaviors, watching for signs of back-to-school anxiety. Many children feel anxious about going back to school and not know how to tell you that do. This article will provide you with signs of anxiety, coping skills, tips and ideas to help your students transition smoothly into the new school year.
There are many different forms of anxiety, for example:
Separation anxiety: A child is worried about being separated from parents/caregiver
Social anxiety: The child is excessively self-conscious, making difficult to socialize and function in group settings.
Selective mutism: The child has a tough time speaking in some settings, like to a teacher, classmates, or even parents when they are anxious.
Attendance problems: A child refusing to go to school, saying they are sick when they may not be sick
Make sure they know they can talk open and freely with you about their feelings regarding going back to school or anything else they could be worrying about. Try to make sure you do something fun to diffuse the stress and to help them to confide in you. Talk to your child about different skills they can use to cope with their anxiety such as:
- 4 count breathing technique to help them relax – inhale through nose slowly for four (4) counts, hold their breath for four (4) counts, exhale through mouth slowly for four (4) counts
- Journaling – write down their feelings, experiences, and dreams in a notebook
- Take a break – Sometimes it is best just to walk away from something that could be stressing them out. In some situations, they may not be able to do this per say, like get up during class and just take a break. But if they are having trouble with something they can go and take a break from that problem and return later. Read a book – Whether it is before bed or during their free time, sometimes reading a book to help take their mind off their day can help them to relax.
The next tips will help establish new routines and habits to have a successful school year. Now the sooner you initiate these tips the better prepared you and your children will be for the new school year.
Quick Tips for the family:
- Designate a specific place where everything goes. We will call it a “school staging area.”
- Teach your child to always put their bookbag, books, notepad, lunchbox, and face masks in the same place.
- Teach your child to always put their homework in the same place.
- Create a designated quiet space for study/homework area.
- Pay special attention to lighting, noise, and distractions.
- The more personalized the space is, the more ownership your child will have.
- Set expectations on when homework should be done, make sure they understand how important their work is.
- Develop a routine of planning tomorrow the night before.
- As a family plan what you are going to wear the night before. Set it out if possible.
- Know what you have planned to do for tomorrow. What special classes or events do you have? What assignments are due?
- Start your routine early for getting ready for bed. So, get washed up, teeth brushed, hair brushed, and into your pajamas ready for bedtime on time. A good sleep pattern is essential for a everyone’s mind and body.
- As a family review tomorrow in your minds just before bedtime. Tell them to see themselves being successful in everything they do.
- Develop the habit of using a daily planner.
- Most schools have Agendas for each student. Learn to use this great tool or use a phone app for homework and assignments. Try apps like The Homework App, Egenda, and My Study Life.
- Parents should check their child’s planner and assignments daily or weekly at the minimum.
- Learning to use these tools effectively may payoff big when report cards come out.
- Communicate about schedules
- With work, school, events, and other extracurricular activities busy families can struggle keeping everyone’s schedule straight. It helps to create a shared calendar where everyone can see what is planned.
The key to making this all work is being consistent. Consistency helps maintain expectations and routines to create solid foundations. Having consistency and structure helps provide children with a sense of stability and safety. With some dedicated effort and persistence your child could be on their way to having their best school year ever! All of us at the WOW Coalition wish you all a great school year!!
Author Alva Tovar is the Program Coordinator for the WOW Coalition. This prevention association promotes safe and healthy choices and responds to alcohol, marijuana, and Rx abuse problems by implementing strategies to prevent and reduce youth substance use. For additional information, visit wowcoalition.org/resources or email: firstname.lastname@example.org