Helping Children Cope with Back-to-School Stress Amidst COVID-19
by Dr. Jeffrey Borenstein, President of the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.
Starting school or starting a new school year can be stressful at the best of times, let alone during a global pandemic. You can help make your child feel more at ease by having an open conversation about what it is that’s worrying him or her and letting your child know that it is completely natural to feel anxious.
Here are a few suggestions for parents to help children cope with the anxiety and stress of returning to school during COVID-19:
- Don’t be afraid to discuss coronavirus, but be age-appropriate and As much as possible try to project a sense of calm and control.
- Help your child understand the importance of social distancing, handwashing, and wearing a mask.
- Whether your child is going to a classroom, being homeschooled, or participating in virtual classes, try to help them focus on the positive aspects of the experience.
- Make sure your child is eating well, getting enough sleep, and keeping physically active.
- Try to maintain a structured daily routine at home.
- Remind teenagers often that they are helping to protect others by following health guidelines.
- If your child is participating in distance learning, create opportunities for them to socialize safely with friends, perhaps via video chats or FaceTime.
- Reassure children about safety measures in place to keep students and teachers healthy. Remind children that they can also help prevent germs spreading by washing their hands with soap and coughing or sneezing into their elbow.
- Consistently communicate with your child about your school districts and your families' own back-to-school plans and listen to their concerns. It is important to encourage and remind children to be flexible as plans may change.
While the stress surrounding back-to-school this year may feel difficult at times, knowing that it’s normal to feel this way—and that you’re not alone—is a good way to begin to manage your own anxiety. It is important to remember that if stress levels and/or anxiety begin to impair your child’s or your own ability to function, that is the time to seek professional assistance.