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Transitioning Back to School Post COVID


Children who have headed back to school this fall are facing unusual challenges. One of them is anxiety about being separated from their families after months and years of togetherness. In many children, this can trigger separation anxiety, in addition to the anxiety of leaving their safe place. They are use to being home with their parents. Even kids who were comfortable pre pandemic are finding it stressful to be separated.  These are realistic fears shared by parents as well. Children are saying things such as, “I don’t want to go back to school”, or “I don’t want to leave you”. It is a complicated job for parents to reassure their children that it is safe to go back to school and be away from them.

Here are some helpful hints:

VALIDATE THEIR FEELINGS: it’s difficult when children are clingy and fearful to separate from a parent, but it is important for you to stay calm and positive. If your child is telling you they are fearful, you want to validate their feelings and give them the space to express themselves, but you don’t want to feed into it to much. Help them think of something they can do about it, this will give them a sense of control.

SET THE TONE: Parents need to be in charge. If you lead with your own anxiety, you will only fuel your child’s anxiety. Stay calm even if you’re not and respond with age appropriate answers. If they ask a question you can’t answer, you can respond with, “that’s a really good question, I’m not sure, but I’ll find out for you”.

HELP THEM BE POSITIVE: Younger children may find comfort if they know what you are doing while they are in school. For example; I’m going food shopping, do you want to sit with me and make up a shopping list. Another way to help them think positive is to talk with them about the good things that happened in school and what they look forward too. Also, maybe take a piece of something from home to school with them, something non-distractable, like mom or dad’s favorite stone, a stress ball, etc.

ESTABLISH AND MAINTAIN A DAILY ROUTINE: keeping a regular schedule provides a sense of control, predictability, calm , and well being.

MONITOR THE TELEVISION: Nobody needs to hear too much negative information, this may just accentuate their fears.

Boys and Girls Clubs of America surveyed 100,000 members ages 9 through 18 and found that their ability to cope with challenges was 70% ranging from medium to very low and 30% could cope with challenges high to very high. The rate of anxiety and stress have increased 28% along with fear, worry, loneliness at 5%.

Mary Sznyter, MA, LPC

2340 Route 9 South, Suite A2, Howell, NJ 07731

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