Growing Minds

Coping with Back to School Anxiety after the Pandemic

A new school year is anxiety-provoking in the best of times.  After the last year and a half of the Pandemic with shutdowns, lockdowns, restrictions, and virtual learning, it is not surprising that anxiety levels for students thinking about the new school year have reached an all-time high!

Here are some ways to help your student cope with returning to school:

Address their feelings.  Let them talk about and validate their thoughts and feelings about school, the pandemic, friendships, etc.  Remember, whatever they feel is fair and they should be able to express those feelings even if they seem surprising to you.  Encouraging a student to talk about their thoughts and feelings can help them to deal with their emotions and feel less anxious.

Reassure them about their safety.  Reassure them that although a Covid infection can be serious, fortunately, for children and much of their family, there is not a high risk of serious infection.  If a young, healthy person gets Covid-19, it is usually a brief, relatively mild illness.  Address ways that you and your family are protecting older or more vulnerable people in your family.  Reassure them that with the vaccine in place, many vulnerable people have been able to limit their chance of serious infection with the vaccine.

Teach them the basics about hygiene.  Regardless of whether your student will be wearing a mask in school or not, having them learn and practice basic illness prevention can go a long way towards preventing all illnesses and this is a skill that can be a lifelong healthy practice.  Teach them to cover their coughs, to wash hands before eating, after playing, after coughing, sneezing or blowing noses.  Teach them how to wash well with soap and water or hand sanitizer.  Teach them to wash or use hand sanitizer before and after touching their eyes, nose or mouth and to avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth when not necessary.  Teach them to avoid sharing drinks or anything that has another’s saliva on it like a lollipop.  Teach them when hugging and kissing family or others to avoid coming in contact with saliva.

Maintain health.  Teach your children the importance of healthy habits when it comes to avoiding Covid and other illnesses.  Eating healthy, drinking water, getting daily exercise and getting enough sleep are crucial to keep one’s immune system strong.  Empower your children to have healthy habits to help fight off infections and to help prevent them.  This will help keep them healthy and empower them to take active measures to maintain their health.

Keep vaccines up to date.  This is more important than ever!  Consider the Covid vaccine for you and your family as it becomes available for various age groups.  This is an excellent way to keep you and your family safe from Covid.

Familiarize yourself with your school rules for this year.  Update your child so they know what to expect regarding masks, distancing, lunches, activities, etc.

Establish a routine and talk about school.  Remind your child about the fun aspects of school like friends, sports and other activities that are fun and exciting for them.  When they have negative thoughts or emotions about school, validate those feelings.  Then help to remind them about the fun and exciting things they can expect.  These may include friends, teachers, classes they may enjoy, after-school activities, etc.  Try to help them take a positive approach to the school year by focusing on the positive aspects of returning to school.  Go over the basics with them to help build their confidence such as their morning schedule, what they will eat for lunch and snacks, what school bag or school supplies they are going to use, what they will wear, how they will get to school etc.  Creating an AM checklist can help to decrease anxiety on the first days and weeks of school as well.