How can you manage your anxiety around heading back to in-person learning?
Is your child excited to be heading back to school in person? Some children may be worried about returning. How can you as a parent handle this?
Dr. Gabrielle Roberts, psychologist at Advocate Children’s Hospital, offers advice on how to help your child have the best school year possible.
“We need to try and differentiate between our fears and those of our children, especially if the plan is for them to return,” she says. “We know our children pick up on our emotions, including fears about returning to school. Some of that is unavoidable. But we want to try not to add additional anxiety onto our children about this.”
Dr. Roberts says keeping your child safe doesn’t have to mean scaring them.
“It can certainly be hard to reassure your child when you’re fearful about them returning to school yourself. I recommend preparing for the conversation before actually sitting down to talk. Do your research. Learn the guidelines. Find out what your child’s school is doing in particular to enforce those guidelines, and think about how this will work for your family.”
“Remember – you can have an influence on your child’s safety even when you aren’t with them.” She says ways to leave an impact on them include teaching them proper hand hygiene, practicing wearing masks for long periods of time, talking about the new rules in place at school and making sure your child understands how to follow the rules.
“Focus on the practices in place to keep your child safe. This can help you both manage stress around heading back to school. In other words, control what you can control,” Dr. Roberts recommends.
She says that just like any other school year, it’s important to help children transition from summer to school by adjusting bedtimes and wake times about a week or two before the start of the year.
“This year especially, we need our kids to be well rested and mentally prepared to adjust to the new circumstances and tackle any challenges that may come their way,” she says.
And don’t forget to take care of yourself.
“As parents, we need to keep an eye on ourselves and our own mental health and stress. Call other adults. Talk to them about your fears. But be mindful of what you say in front of your children. Remember that this reality is new for all of us, and it’s hard. Exercise kindness to yourself when you do slip up.”
About the Author
Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is the public affairs coordinator at Advocate Children's Hospital. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks, playing with her dog, Bear and running her cats' Instagram account, @strangefurthings.