All over the world, students are gearing up to return to the classroom. After spending so many months cooped up at home, returning to school, daycare, or camp can feel like a relief. However, these outlets can also feel overwhelming to children who are hesitant to leave their parents. After being forced to stay home, navigating hybrid or remote learning, it’s perfectly natural for children to feel anxious about returning to in-person learning, as this entails a process of re-adjustment.
While these feelings are natural, you can help prepare your child for a return to classroom learning using a few mental health tips designed to ease their transition.
Know the Facts and What to Expect
Knowledge is power. Understanding your school’s protocols for keeping your children safe in the classroom will help ease your anxiety and your child’s anxiety surrounding COVID19. Start by becoming informed about the real benefits and risks of returning to in-person school during the ongoing pandemic. For example, what are the masking rules? Will your children eat lunch in the cafeteria? Will your children be socially distanced?
Aside from contacting your child’s school, consult reputable sources, such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UAE Department of Health, on the recommended guidelines for returning to in-person learning. Depending on your regionals and local school regulations, you can expect the following when your children return to school:
- At least 3 feet of physical distance between students within classrooms to reduce transmission risk.
- Masking requirements by all students (age two and older), staff, teachers, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status.
- Students, teachers, and staff should stay home when they have signs of infectious illness and be referred to their healthcare provider for testing and care.
Recognize and Validate What your Child is Feeling
Not all children have the vocabulary to express how they feel. Look for behaviors to indicate that they may be feeling anxious like crying, irritability, upset stomach, a change in sleep routines, or clinginess. When you notice, or your child expresses feelings of anxiety, it’s essential for you to acknowledge and validate these feelings. For example, you might tell your child, “I know it’s been difficult, I know you like to stay at home. I know it may feel scary.”
You can even mention various reasons your child might be upset, for example, “I know it’s hard because it’s a new teacher, and you might not know everyone in your class.” Regardless of what you say, be sure to end on a positive note, “We know you can do it, and we’re here to help you figure things out.” At the same time, make sure your children understand the public health guidelines, including social distancing, wearing masks the right way, and washing their hands frequently.
Maintain Healthy Communication
Regardless of your child’s reaction to returning to in-person learning, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open. You should check in with your children about their day and maintain lines of communication with their teachers. For example, be sure to ask your children how they are doing and let them know how you are feeling as well. It’s natural to be apprehensive and excited about the change. It’s also natural to be concerned about getting sick and how that may impact their school year.
Establish a Routine
During the height of the pandemic, most students were learning virtually in some capacity, which gave more flexibility in home schedules. Establishing a routine for your child’s day before and after school can help them adjust as they return to in-person learning. For example, getting up early, eating a healthy breakfast, and having a regular bedtime routine. Sticking to a routine will give your child a sense of control and security before and after school. This routine can include after-school activities that your child enjoys, play-dates or even family evenings.
Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help
Kids are flexible, but they also have powerful emotions without the maturity to process them in a healthy manner. If your child is anxious or struggling with returning to school during the ongoing pandemic, they are not alone. It’s perfectly natural to feel overwhelmed as you transition back to classroom learning. A therapist can provide a safe space to discuss their fears and anxiety while helping them discover the tools and solutions they need to manage their stress in a positive manner.
Whether you or your child needs help managing anxiety, our team of mental professionals can help. At Be Psychology, our team of child therapists and psychologists are trained to help treat both children and adults with any mental health concerns. If you or a loved one needs testing, assessments, or psychotherapy, we can help.