Eight Ways to Reduce Back-to-School Worries

Eight Ways to Reduce Back-to-School Worries

Whether you’re in the “I need school to start now!” camp or the “Summer just started” camp, the fact is that the new school year is approaching quickly. Every year, back-to-school time is met with emotions ranging from excitement to nervousness or fear, but this year that’s even more true for students and families. Dr. Kendra Read, director of the Mood and Anxiety Program at Seattle Children’s, offers ways to reduce back-to-school worries as you support your child’s return to in-person learning.

“Uncertainty is often hard to tolerate and times of transition in the midst of uncertainty are that much harder,” Read said.

Here is some advice from Read to help navigate these trying times:

1. Accept that all feelings are normal and valid

Many children and youth will be excited about returning to school, reconnecting with friends and teachers, engaging in sports, clubs or performance arts, and feeling like things are going “back to normal.” Of course, excitement is often accompanied by jitters or nervousness.

Some kids will be afraid to leave the safety of their home and go back to the social scene or behavioral expectations that are part of a school day. They may feel anxious or worried about adjusting to a completely new schedule and routine.

Still others may be fearful about going back to their school with cases of COVID-19 still occurring around them, and news about the pandemic still a part of daily life.

Start talking with your child or teen to learn how they’re feeling about going back to school. There are no right or wrong answers. Help them name their feelings if they are having trouble, and let them feel the feelings they’re experiencing. It’s as simple as saying, “You’re feeling nervous,” if they share that feeling with you; or, “It seems like you’re feeling angry,” if they’re having trouble naming those things themselves. Truly hear them and try to understand their point of view, so they feel safe and validated.

Know that their feelings may change from day to day or as school gets underway. Continue to listen without judgment as they share what they’re thinking. This can help keep the lines of communication open, which is a very good thing! It is important to validate their feelings, even if you do not feel the same or agree with the behaviors linked to these feelings.

2. Get physically ready for the change in routine

Start with getting back to healthy habits that promote physical and mental wellness. Reign in those late bedtimes a few weeks before school starts. Start moving bedtime 30 minutes earlier every three to five days until your child is getting the recommended sleep for their age, based on when they’ll need to wake up on school days. Avoid screens starting at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

Continue aiming to have your child move their bodies for at least 60 minutes each day. Being active reduces stress, improves sleep, and helps kids be ready to learn and cope with challenges.

Get any required immunizations, annual check-ups or sports physicals scheduled now. Stay on top of preventive health visits, and schedule those appointments before life gets even busier.

curaJOY Contributor
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