Now that face-to-face classes are once again a reality and not seemingly a thing from another lifetime or distant future, getting back to the “old normal” can be as daunting as adjusting to the “new normal” – especially for kids. Even if they are excited to see their friends and teachers, even if they thrive on change and uncertainty, this unprecedented situation of “going back” to what was once taken for granted can trigger nerves, stress, and anxiety in various degrees and ways.
Little Steps is here with 5 game-changing but straightforward tips for easing the transition for your kids that will benefit you as well. Be open and present, supportive without fueling worries, prepare what you can in advance, introduce a structure and be patient with your kiddo and yourself! Keep on reading for more details!
Share your experiences about first days of school and similar situations - children can feel when you're not authentic, so give an honest, but positive, account that they will relate to. You will learn something either way. Don't ask questions that explicitly mention nerves or stress; ask them casual questions about their hopes, expectations, or what they're most excited about. Acknowledge their feelings. Be present and available, but never try to force anything out of your child.
Keep that line of communication open at all times. Show them with your focus and attention that they can always turn to you to help them make sense of their fears and anxieties - not by rationalizing or blindly reassuring them away, but by validating them, understanding where they come from and, if they want, strategizing. Roleplay thought experiments and encouraging them to identify positives can help (but without burying the negatives)!
Good preparation is especially useful if your child is transitioning into a new school environment. Take advantage of virtual tours that many schools have on their websites and, if possible, visit the school in person. Involve your child in planning and shopping for snacks, outfits, and school supplies! All this will enhance the sense of familiarity and control over their experience. Don't forget to pack everything up the night before so you're ready to go in the morning!
Dependable routines make life more predictable for your child, which leaves more energy and focus on coping with things that are outside of everyone's control! Set up a regular bedtime/wake-up time, snack time as well as bonding/talking time. If your child has issues with their new school-dictated sleep routine, you can work on developing beneficial bedtime and morning habits together.
You are modeling behavior to your child, so be patient with them so they can learn to be patient themselves. They might not see all the positive sides of going back to school right away. The kind of support they need may change. Let go of any expectations and do the best you can to understand and support your child as a unique individual in an unprecedented situation. Do the same for yourself! If it becomes too much, don't hesitate to ask for help!