Returning to school after extended breaks is often stressful for children and adolescents. The transition is emotionally complex in a typical school year, but the events of the last year have presented even more challenges for students to cope with. Muddled with common fear of the unknown—such as new faces and routines—are the consequences of the major disruptions many students have experienced due to COVID-19. By addressing these fears and challenges, you may be able to help your child have a more positive and productive back-to-school experience.
The American Occupational Therapy Association provides several resources for families and educators to support students through this process, but here are a few highlights to get you started:
- Talk through fears and stressors related to starting a new school year and teach your child strategies to help them feel better, or self-regulate
- Pro tip: teach children take deep breaths by telling them to think about smelling a birthday cake and blowing out the candles.
- Take advantage of open houses or similar events to help your child preview their new environment and schedule
- Pro tip: address potential challenges, such as lockers, ahead of time.
- Develop visual schedules to support transitions from home to school each day or to virtual learning environments
- Pro tip: make the schedule the “authority” on why and what your child is to be doing to avoid direct opposition
- Incorporate breaks and quiet moments (e.g., simply sitting still after awakening, meditation, mindfulness) into the time before starting activities before and after school
- Pro tip: create device-free spaces and times to allow your child these much needed breaks.