How To Help Kid's Transition Back Into School Post Covid & Deal With It Emotionally

How To Help Kid’s Transition Back Into School Post Covid & Deal With It Emotionally

This school year, it’s time to color outside of the lines. Not only did the last year mean huge restrictions for kids, but even before that the increasing use of social media, extra curriculars, competitive schooling, and more means kids have felt the mounting pressure to do well and fit in. And we think this year, back to school should be less about getting back to normal—and more about embracing the joy of doing things your own unique and colorful way.

The fall is a time of anticipation, excitement, and new starts. It’s also a time to reconnect. It’s a time to get back into the swing of things. Those are all good things. But back-to-school can also be a stressful time, especially for kids whose anticipation may manifest itself as shyness, activeness, or anxiousness.

If you’re seeing this in your kids as the new school year starts—and perhaps it’s something you’ve not necessarily dealt with before—you may be at a loss. But here’s what some of our favorite parenting experts have to say about helping your kid cope.

Of course, as with any mental health concern with children, do visit a professional if you feel the situation warrants it. They’ll be able to aid in your unique situation and understand the child’s needs better, as it’s more direct.

Listen, social re-entry anxiety is real, for adults and kids alike. Not to mention, starting a new school year—coming out of a pandemic or not—is cause enough of some kids to get jitters about making friends, fitting in, and finding their community. “Some kids struggled to join in before the pandemic and may have sunk further into their own bubbles. The wall of opposition—shrugs, eye-rolling, or tantrums—is usually a sign that your child is struggling to surface in this brave new world.” says parenting expert Caroline Maguire, M.Ed.

Social isolation has probably meant that some kids may have missed developing key social learnings, too. This may result in them feeling as though they don’t know how to navigate a conversation, reach out to others, and therefore, retreat.

So the first thing to do is to identify where the pain points are.

“We can all remember a time when we had to cross a room to speak to people we didn’t know or felt a nuanced and subtle slight. Due to social distancing, children have missed some of the natural progressions—the small and big social milestones that help us learn to connect. Your child may have struggled before COVID with fitting in, but now is the opportunity to identify which key social-emotional skills to work on such as chatting, approaching others, keeping a game going, reading the room,” says Maguire.

Work with your child to find where they feel they are struggling—be an empathetic listener while doing so—and then help them build confidence in those areas. “Pair the social-emotional skills you are working on with low-key, fun opportunities to build confidence,” she says. “There are valuable social skills that come from interacting in a less-structured environment. Make this practice a game by including supportive opportunities with close friends, family, cousins, younger or older children, or a group.” The key is to practice these skills in low-stakes situations—there’s a lot of social pressure at school, so you’ll want to work on these skills in places where they know they won’t be judged—and even better, be encouraged!

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