Back to School: Tips On How To Reduce Anxiety for Kids and Parents

The thought of going back to school can cause anxiety for students and their parents. This transition now includes additional safety measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic with the added uncertainty increasing stress levels.

Parents can take a proactive approach to assist with transitioning from a summer schedule back into a new routine with the added expectations of physical distancing and safety precautions.

Flexibility

“Flexibility, and a focus on what we can control or deal with while acknowledging what is occurring around us, is key,” said Amanda Matthews, a psychologist at Monarch.

For parents, being as proactive as possible during the summer months is essential. Talking with their children about their feelings and being open to them to come up with real solutions is one way to get a head start.

While returning to school may be seen as a step toward returning to some sense of pre-pandemic normalcy, it also marks a great sense of anxiety for both parents and children.

“The parents with whom I have spoken to have so many questions about what a return to in-person learning will look like, and unfortunately, we do not have all of those answers yet, as we explore an ever-evolving new normal,” says Matthews.

Discuss Back to School Anxiety With Your Child

Matthews recommends taking time to discuss the anxiety your child may be feeling.  “It is important to sit down with your children and talk to them about their feelings,” Matthews emphasized.  “Are they excited about returning to school and seeing their teachers and friends? Are they worried that germs invisible to the naked eye will harm them or their loved ones? Are they wondering if they will get into trouble if they take off their masks, or hug a peer?”

Emphasize Current Information

Matthews suggests emphasizing what you do know right now about the upcoming school year. “Perhaps it is the date of the first day of school, how long the school day will be, or what the weekday schedule will look like. These details may help them to understand what a return to the classroom may look like at the beginning of the school year,” she noted.

“Consider writing down their questions, as well as your own, and asking school representatives about any available answers,” Matthews advises. “Identify that people have been looking at this situation for some time and are making the best decisions possible now.”

In-person vs. Virtual Learning

Parents who are choosing a virtual education for their children may feel this decision is bittersweet. Keeping their kids home most likely reduces their chances of contracting the virus, but their children could miss out on the social connection and the benefits of going to an in-person school.

“Social connectedness, for both parents and children, is possible right now, even during these challenging times,” Matthews explains. “We want to consistently check in with ourselves and our children regarding our feelings and thoughts, acknowledging and talking about how we feel, recognizing these feelings as natural and understandable, and asking ourselves and each other what we need to help ourselves and each other.”

According to the Child Mind Institute, anxiety associated with going to school can manifest in physical symptoms. If stomachaches and headaches, for example, persist even after the possibility of a medical problem has been cleared, it could be a sign of an anxiety disorder. For example, a child with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) might avoid going to school because it’s hard for him to manage his anxiety.

Monarch offers services to anyone who would like additional support to manage mental health issues for children, adolescents and adults. To find out more about Monarch services, visit MonarchNC.org, or call (866) 272-7826 to make an appointment.