Overcoming Back-to-School Anxiety in a Pandemic

Going back to school can be anxiety-provoking for many children. This year is no different — except everything is magnified. Kids are excited to see their friends and teachers after months of being cooped up at home, but the fear of returning to a school that looks different from the one that they remember has created uncertainty.

Families are making tough decisions about whether to send their children back to school in person or virtually. They are weighing the financial and educational ramifications of these decisions. The best thing you can do as a parent is accept your reality and give yourself grace as you make the decision that is right for your family.

What to do if your child is feeling anxious and afraid

Anxiety can be a healthy response. It’s useful for children to gauge relative risk and to take necessary precautions. Anxiety is unhealthy under two conditions: when you are worried in the absence of a real threat, or when your worry is grossly disproportionate to the actual risk. The key to managing your child’s anxiety begins with an open dialogue.

Tips for talking about school with your children

Limit exposure to media. Watching news stories does not alter circumstances. Be the gatekeeper of the flow of information in your home.

Be honest. If your children are asking about the risks of going back to school, explain it to them in a kid-friendly way that sticks to the facts. This reassures your kids that you believe in their ability to cope with difficult situations.

Develop a rhythm. Kids are experiencing changes to the structure of lives. We should try to create a rhythm for their day that is predictable. Just remember, this pandemic is unprecedented, so take it easy on yourself.

Name it to tame it. Acknowledge all emotions. If your child is feeling anxious, affirm that it is normal to feel that way during times of uncertainty. Then encourage them that you will get through it together.

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