As we get closer to the first day of school, stress is building on both parents and children around what this school year will be like, how it will compare to last year, and whether or not everyone will stay safe and healthy.
Last year was difficult, but there was an element of newness to it and a sense that it would be a temporary experience that mitigated the stress. Now, in year two, there’s even more uncertainty about what will happen, in addition to anxiety about returning to in-person classroom learning, fears of being infected with the virus, and too many angry conflicts about what the best ways to stay safe are.
And that’s just from the adult perspective. For children, easily double that sense of uncertainty and lack of control over what will happen.
If you’re feeling anxious about this school year, then know that you’re not alone. Parents, children, teachers, school administrators, at some level, at some level nearly everyone involved is experiencing anxiety and stress about the upcoming school year.
As always, there is help available.
There are several online guides offering tips and strategies to support children and parents, as they head back to school this year.
Mental Health America, for example, has one called, Facing Fears, Supporting Students. The guide is available for download and includes fact sheets, posters, and other resources geared for both parents and children.
One fact sheet I found helpful, called How Trauma Impacts School Performance, has tips for supporting children who are feeling traumatized. The sheet includes a list of behaviors for what trauma can look like in the classroom while also acknowledging that every child’s trauma will show up differently.
The sheet encourages school personnel and parents to see children’s behaviors through this lens.
“All behavior,” Mental Health America says in the fact sheet, “is a form of communication. If a student’s actions or demeanor are disruptive or strike you as “off,” think about it from a trauma lens and consider what they might be trying to express as needs or wants.”
Another interesting support guide comes from Children’s Mental Health Ontario and is also available online. This one has a great list of strategies for parents to try and recommends they begin by addressing their own anxiety before trying to support their children through theirs.
The Back-to-School Parenting in a Pandemic guide offers a list of strategies for “Supporting and Reassuring your Child,” including, for example, reminding your child that they can turn to other people for support, at home and at school.
That reminder is a good one for adults too.
Aas you seek out strategies to help your children, don’t forget to reach for support for yourself too.
Online guides like the ones listed above are just one option. Local professionals are also available to listen and offer support as needed. Check out the Help & Hope Southcoast list of resources for organizations to call.
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