SEATTLE — The start of a new school year can trigger anxiety even during a “normal” school year, but more so during a global pandemic.
How you support your child as they return to school may depend on how they feel and their age. Younger children are more likely to have separation anxiety and may need reassurance about being away from you, especially after spending increased time together. Older children may feel anxious about academics or how they'll fit in with their friends.
There are also new safety measures to get used to., and while COVID-19 is not new, there are still unknowns, especially as the Delta variant spreads.
Marcelle Waldman, Issaquah mom, former teacher, and creator of MyFeelLinks, said social and emotional health for parents and children is vital as we navigate this transition. She offers these tips to handle anxieties as the school year begins:
1. Address your child’s feelings: Communicate with your child about how they're feeling about the return to school. Call a family meeting, talk at bedtime or at the dinner table. Whatever time is best for your family, be sure to dedicate time to this important conversation.
2. Validate: Validate the feelings your child shares with you. It might not be what you THINK they are feeling or what you yourself are feeling, but be sure to validate what they are sharing with you.
3. Anticipate: You may be able to anticipate some of what your child is feeling, so try some interventions now. Maybe that involves visiting school before classes begin, rehearsing the drop-off, practicing mask-wearing at home, or discussing how lunch will work.
4. Establish routines: Predictability and routines are often very important for children to feel a sense of safety, security, and efficiency. Start preparing children for the transition by getting back to school year routines, such as a realistic bedtime and selecting tomorrow's clothes.
5. Communicate with your child’s teacher: Introduce yourself to your child's new teacher. Figure out the best way to communicate with them. Let them know how your child is feeling. Be positive and supportive.