Families are adapting to the evolving changes in daily life caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Families are adjusting to a new normal after being faced with many fast changes from businesses closing to social gatherings only consisting of those in the household. Parents and caregivers were having to keep kids occupied, feeling safe, and trying to keep up with schoolwork as best as possible. None of this is easy, however, it is helpful to stay focused on what is possible and mostly reassuring children that they are ok, and everything will get better. Children might have worries about returning to school. It’s important to acknowledge that this has been a difficult time and give them a message that returning to school is a big deal and you understand this.
Take Time To Talk, let your children’s questions guide you. Answer their questions truthfully, however, don’t offer unnecessary details or facts. Often, children and youth do not talk about their concerns because they are confused or don’t want to worry loved ones. Younger children absorb scary information in waves. They ask questions, listen, play, and then repeat the cycle. Children always feel empowered if they can control some aspects of their life. A sense of control reduces fear.
Coping strategies, coping strategies are what you use when feeling stressed, such as speaking with friends or family, doing regular exercise, or using breathing techniques. If you feel comfortable, you could share your own worries and feelings about the current situation and coping strategies you are using to manage these feelings. Acknowledge that it’s normal to feel anxious about going back to school – try sharing an example of a time you’ve felt anxious about going into a new situation.
Encourage them to focus on the present and avoid thinking too far ahead. Thinking too far ahead can feel overwhelming. Focus on what is in their control (handwashing, wearing masks, getting prepared for returning such as packing their bag) rather than what they can’t control.
Creating a self-soothing kit/anti-anxiety kit, one way to help children transition back to school is to provide them with a self-soothing kit or anti-anxiety kit that they can create with parents or on their own. This is a great way coping skill for children to use whenever they are starting to worry or feeling anxious. Having a self-soothing kit or anti-anxiety kit nearby can help children to regulate their emotions and decrease the sensations of anxiety in the moment.
Here are directions in creating a self-soothing kit/ anti-anxiety kit:
Creating a Self-Soothing Kit / Anti-Anxiety Kit
Find a pencil case, lunchbox, any small container that can either be placed in their desk or backpack. Allow your child to decorate the container if they choose
Consider items that can be used at the desk, for example:
- Paper and pen for doodling
- Fidget (variety can be helpful)
- Silly putty, play dough, modeling magic
- A squeeze ball
- Sensory toy
- Snacks for self-soothe (if allowed in the classroom, however, can be used when on the playground or going to and from school)
- Positive affirmation quotes
- Positive message from someone special to your child
- List of friends, teachers, counselor, etc that your child feels comfortable talking to if needed.
Have your child help you create the self-soothing kit. It can be a great experience for both you and your child plus it is an easy way to open the conversation with your child about going back to school.