Ease Back-To-School Anxiety
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The coronavirus outbreak has caused major disruptions to daily life and our youth are feeling these changes deeply. While the return to school will be welcome and exciting for many students, others will be feeling anxious or frightened. There are many reasons why going back to school might be anxiety-provoking for your child:
- Grief/loss over changes in lifestyle
- 'Normal’ won’t be the same as before COVID-19
- Return to pre-COVID-19 stresses, like school bullying
- Life was better in isolation, e.g. more time with family
- Feeling safe at home and unsafe/out-of-control in public
- Fear of COVID-19 second-wave
It’s very normal for children and young people to experience re-entry anxiety in the midst of a pandemic. Here are tips to help young people navigate the complicated emotions they may be facing with going back to school:
Get back into routine. Routines are safe and familiar which can help reduce anxiety.
Focus on what you can control. It’s hard getting caught up in the unknown and ‘what-if’s'? Helping your child identify what they can control and practical things they can do can help them be more in the present moment and reduce anxiety. Practical strategies can include getting organized, making plans for the weekend, preparing their school bag, etc.
Revisit social distancing rules and good hygiene practices. Reviewing these can help your child feel more at ease about their safety when in public spaces.
Provide reassurance. Sometimes we can’t solve all our children’s problems, but they don’t always need solutions – just to feel understood and supported.
Explore the positives. Even if they are worried about returning to school, there may be some things they are looking forward to. It can be helpful to chat through these together
Be curious. Ask open questions and actively listen to understand more about your child’s thoughts and feelings.
Normalize and validate their feelings. Let them know that what they are feeling is normal, other people feel the same way and that there is nothing wrong with their feelings. For example, “It must be hard to have so many worries, but it’s normal to worry about getting sick when you go back to school.”
Help them limit exposure to the media. If they are younger, this might include reducing their exposure to the news. If they are older, it might be helping them to critically think about media messages they are exposed to or ensuring they are accessing reputable sources.
Create a plan around transitioning. Planning can help alleviate some anxiety, especially fear of the unknown. Having a plan for the first day of school can help.
Remember, it’s ok to not have all the answers. If your child asks a question you can’t answer, or needs help with something you don’t know how to solve, be honest. It’s a great opportunity to do some research and learn something new together.