How to Conquer Back-to-School Anxiety
By Melvin Hayden and Latrice Williams
At some point we are going to head back to the classroom. But online schooling has become the hot topic and the preferable choice of many families. As for right now, many parents are mapping out a plan as to how they will work while their children are at home learning. This can present quite a few challenges - and sometimes challenges can present changes in our behavior. It is extremely imperative that you, the parent, pay close attention to the way you respond to the challenges. I cannot stress that enough. Often times, a child’s vibe is a direct reflection of your vibe. We know there are some children that are old enough to stay at home.
But for the working mom and dad who cannot work from home and have a 5-year old in kindergarten, that child cannot stay at home. That means every single parent with a school aged child is either going to have to find a way to work from home or find a way to make sure their child’s educational needs are met while they are working. Refer to the tips below if you are in a school district that has opted to go with online learning:
Make a plan NOW
Explain the situation to your employer. Now would be a good time to ask if you can work from home. Work alongside your partner to develop a solid routine. Is it possible for you and your partner to have a schedule where you rotate staying at home? For instance, maybe you can work from home M-W and your spouse can work from home T-F. Or you can you split up the schedule any way you like.
If I choose the option to have my kid stay home I think her mom and I can create a safe place for her that starts with, during the first days back, trying to make it a point to be home and support her through transitioning back to school. When you stay at home, try to focus more on your child and put everything else on the back burner. If one of you can work away from home, try to arrange drop offs to school and pickups home in time for early dinner or a fun activity after school.
Spend some time talking to your child about their day - what they thought was safe and unsafe, what the school is doing differently than what you saw at home and how they can manage the differences. Talk about the different philosophies of what other kids are saying so your child does not get confused or add to the anxiety of an already tense situation. Ask them if they have any questions. We know that as parents, often times we have to pry information out of our kids. It’s tiring, but worth it in the end. Unfortunately, kids will listen to their friends more than they listen to you. You could spend all morning uplifting and encouraging them, and five minutes later they are stressed about the pandemic because their best friend’s grandmother caught it. Stay up-to-date with your child’s emotions and be adamant about filtering out those negative thoughts and conversations. In a time like this, don’t feel bad if you need to crack down on phone privileges. What your child hears and thinks is crucial in a time like this.
One of the downsides of kids not being in the classroom are extra distractions. They have access to the fridge, TV, the backyard and you’ll find them peeping outside the window more often than not. The advantage to this however is that you can tailor recess, nap time and snack time to your liking. Unfortunately, nowadays some school systems don’t provide the opportunities for kids to get out and enjoy the fresh air. Set up a schedule that your child will benefit from. If you’re in the South, temperatures are not favorable at the start of the school year. Therefore, you could have your child start their day outside by eating breakfast on the back patio. Or even better, have them start their learning session outside. This gives them a good dose of sunshine without the sweltering heat. Then you can transition back inside after an hour or so and move on with the rest of the lesson plan.
Consider hiring a tutor. It’s important to be realistic about what you can and can’t do. You cannot me a mom, teacher, cook, maid and be successful in your occupation if you’re working from home. A tutor would be able to provide the one on one attention they need. This eliminates you from having to juggle multiple duties. Picture this – you’ve got pots and pans rattling on the stove, you’re on the phone with your boss, your child is asking you for assistance with a math problem and you are trying to finish a load of laundry. That is a chaotic scene. Don’t feel guilty for bringing in help.
If you’re comfortable, host a couple study groups. This would be better for teenage students. If your state is not experiencing a shut down, they might be able to meet at a local café. The beautiful thing about learning is that it can be done in many different ways.
If your child is going back to school, examine their emotions
One of the things that can cause back-to-school anxiety for kids is not knowing what to expect. Help your child become more acclimated to new routines and unfamiliar surroundings by doing the following:
Keep the same routines you had at home
If you had them wearing a mask, allow them to keep wearing the mask until there is a level of comfort for THEM, not YOU.
If they feel as though the rules are being enforced, it will help decrease anxiety and build confidence in the measures that have been taken to ensure safety.
It will take time, so plan on it. Not your time (parents) but their time (children).
We as parents know our children best. At any given time, you can sense anxiety and it may be linked to the idea of going back to school or it could be rooted in something more serious. Remember to be relaxed as much as possible. Talk with your child, your child's teacher and the school counselor. Back-to-school time is always hectic for parents so take care of yourself by eating right and get enough sleep. Those are important things to do during this time of transitioning back to school, whether in or outside the classroom.