A school start calls for hope and resilience

The transition back to school often serves up stress or anxiety. It would be an understatement to say this year is no different. On top of the common back-to-school jitters, this year mixes in uncertainties because of coronavirus.

Students are now balancing so many unknowns, which can increase anxiety, sadness, and a sense of loss and disappointment. Students and families are bouncing from distance learning to hybrid models and wondering when the return to the school halls will come.

For others, distance learning may be giving some relief to the pressures, stress, and anxiety triggers present in school settings; yet it also introduces isolation and potentially avoidance. And, students in a transition year (starting or ending the elementary, middle or high school years) are missing many of the traditional milestones, rituals and celebrations related to the school experience.

No matter how an individual student or family is coping, there are challenges, loss and change which can ignite emotions and behaviors that are difficult to handle.

Whether a child is feeling stress from COVID-19 or simply from the upcoming school year itself, worries can manifest in physical symptoms, like headaches or stomach aches, having a hard time falling or staying asleep, or a change in mood or appetite. All of which affects learning.

Right after food and shelter, a child’s mental health is critical to their ability to experience success in school and life. Reducing the stress of back-to-school is possible with 4 tips:

  1. Create a focused “work-only” space and a transition walk to help them shift to school time. (Hint: if possible, avoid places that children eat, sleep or play in).
  2. Use meal times to transition back to family time and check in about highs and lows from the day to give them space to share excitement or fears about school.
  3. Stick to a routine and schedule that helps your child feel like life is more predictable. If possible post the schedule, expectations and other family reminders in a central spot.
  4. Be patient. Some adjustment issues are to be expected – give your new routine a few weeks to settle in and grace to everyone as they adjust.

As school days continue, your child’s teachers and school team may have additional ideas for his/her/their social, emotional or behavioral development. Children who receive early intervention will gain skills for success and will be less likely to fall behind academically and socially.

If you are still noticing stress-related behavior, it can be overwhelming as a caregiver. Know (that you are not alone in this and) that it’s okay to reach out for help.

At Washburn Center for Children, we understand that all parents need stabilizing support, especially now. Our therapists help children, youth and teens struggling with social, emotional or behavioral challenges such as: attention deficit disorder, anxiety, depression, family change/stress, trauma and loss or grief. Call 612.871.1454 for support today; many programs have immediate availability.