With schools reopening soon, kids will be in large social settings some have not been exposed to for the last 18 months. While many students are excited about this, others may be worried. Some may question if they will have the same friends or be able to make new friends. There may also be some fears about their own health and safety following the pandemic which can affect their feelings about returning to school.
Bayhealth Wellness Center Mental Health Counselor Alyson Gates offers tips for parents to consider, signs to look for, and ways they can help their children overcome fears of being back in social settings:
Be patient. The uncertainty of all the things that changed during the pandemic was traumatic. Children and teens will need time to readjust. Kids may need lots of gentle reminders about expectations.
Show compassion. Kids may have fears or experience social challenges they have not experienced before. This is not a time to tell our kids to “get over it” or minimize what kids are communicating. Help your child make a schedule for completing schoolwork so they do not get overwhelmed. Practice social interactions by role playing meeting new friends.
Ask for help. Check with your school district to see what they have developed to help students reacclimate to the learning environment. Social emotional learning has become a priority in education and many schools have developed plans to address these issues.
Be an active participant in your children’s lives. Encourage kids to decrease screen time and interact with peer’s face-to-face. Help kids identify their interests and seek opportunities for kids to pursue them.
Get your kids back on schedule. Practice daily schedules before the school year begins. A fun way to get children excited about the new school year is by letting them choose school supplies and first day outfits.
Go easy on yourselves. As we are all adjusting, there is going to be a learning curve. Things are likely not going to go perfectly. Show patience and kindness to yourselves, your kids, and their educators. When school is back in session, be ready for challenges but also be sure to celebrate the good things and make kids proud of what they have overcome. Praising kids increases self-esteem and self-confidence and gives them the courage to face new challenges.
What are some signs parents should look for? It’s natural for children to experience emotional ups and downs. Changes in eating and sleeping patterns (too much or too little), not showing interest in previously favorite activities without having new interests, avoiding friends and isolating themselves, or being extra clingy to parents if they are feeling insecure are all signs to monitor when the school year begins.
“Kids adjust better when they feel supported,” said Gates. “Parents can model good behavior by taking care of their own good mental health, demonstrating good self-care, staying calm, and showing kids they are in this together with them on the same team.”
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