Return to School in the Time of Covid-19

Posted on by Alyson Jones. Posted in Blog.

The return to school this September is unlike anything we have seen or experienced before.  There is always some anxiety for children as they return to school – but in the time of Covid-19 the anxiety of both parents and children are at an all time high. 

Here are some tips on how to handle the transition back to school during this unusual and unprecedented year. 

  1. Have a focused conversation with your child.
  • Be a leader to your children and teens and initiate the discussion with them.
  • Allow them to express their feelings and thoughts before you offer your own opinions.
  • Pay attention to the developmental stage of your child and have a conversation appropriate to their age.
  • Be real with them. Talk to your children about the beginning of the school year and how the adults are adapting and doing their best to figure out new ways of doing things while keeping people safe. 
  • Let them know we are all in this together and we are all working together to try to make school the best we can for children right now.
  • Let them know they can ask questions and share their concerns with the adults around them.
  • These conversations can be teaching moments for children of all ages.
  1. Watch for anxiety in your children.
  • Changes in sleep patterns and appetite.
  • The desire to hide out on screens.
  • Change in mood, either over elated or very low energy
  • Withdrawing
  • Aggression and anger
  • Solution – normalize anxiety
    • Let them know that it is natural to feel worried about the unknown and that anxiety is just part of life. It is natural to feel anxious going back to school – especially this year. We all feel anxious during a big transition – no matter what our age.
    • Ask them if they are worried about any things and let them talk through it.
    • Get them active and away from screens
    • Have family meals together
    • Seek counselling and mental health support – we all need some of this right now!
  1. Recognize and manage your own anxiety.
  • Are you feeling restless, agitated, afraid and uneasy?
  • The more awareness you have of your own emotion the better you can lead constructive conversations with your child.
  • Have your own supports in place so you can work through some of your anxiety away from your children.
  • It is ok to be honest with your children that you are having anxiety as well about this – but you do need to stay in the lead and let them know you are doing things to take care of your anxiety.
  • Share tips with your children on how you handle your anxiety (deep breathing, walking, talking to a counsellor).
  • The antidote to anxiety is exposure – not avoidance! You can assist your children by working through anxiety rather than avoiding the things that are making us anxiety.  In these times of “high anxiety” this an essential life lesson. We should not be trying to shield them from anxiety.  Some simple deep breathing skills and mindfulness techniques can help them work through the anxiety and build resiliency.
  1. Highlight the resilience and adaptability of humanity and of your child.
  • Life is all about change, and adaptability is one of the best life skills anybody can have.
  • Look at the times the world, your child and you have bounced back before.
  • We have handled everything that came before this and as humans we will continue to do so. Remind yourself and your child that they are inherently resilient (it is wired in us to be so) and will bounce back and adapt as the changes occur.
  1. Closeness and Gratitude
  • Take a moment, pause, and take a deep breath.
  • Although we have all experienced challenges this year there is so much to be grateful for. Name what you are grateful for, get your child to name 3 things they are grateful for.
  • Fill your children up with “you” and the secure feelings that come when your child has your attention and feels your enjoyment of the relationship.
  • Don’t rush through the family time and spend some one-on-one time with your child whenever you can. This can be done though simple things like a talk and walk, or a family barbecue.
  • Be present and enjoy your child; nothing else will prepare them better for that school year that that!