Going back to school is a really exciting time because you get to see your friends, you get to learn and back on a routine! It’s not always fun for our children. This has been an odd year and they have different things that have gone on for them.
What’s going on for your child?
Look at each child individually. What behaviours have you been able to observe? Are these new issues? Were they there before the pandemic? You may not have understood the depth of the issue. Many parents have a better understanding of their child’s struggles because they have seen it first hand. Starting something new, change, transitions all create anxiety and stress. It’s normal. Some children do not value going back to school, or the step is too big because they have been away from school and friends for so long. Give it some time, let them settle in. Change and new situations can take up to 8 weeks to feel really adjusted. Especially when it’s brand new.
Have the conversations
It may take more than one conversation, be patient and stay consistent. Try to see what is underneath the behaviour. What is the cause of their reaction? Is the fear/anxiety/ a real or a perceived threat? A child or teen will feel even more stressed if they don’t feel they have the tools to deal with it.
Arm them with tools to deal with the situation or emotion:
- How can they lower their anxiety a bit so they can get their school work done?
- What are the calm-down activities that they can use in the moment?
- Come up with some hot topics to start conversations and different ways to connect with friends
Normalize their experience. Problem-solve together. Give them opportunity to be in situations that make them feel nervous or uncomfortable. Exposure to the situations that make you nervous gets you used to the distress and how to handle it. Emotion comes up and emotion comes down, let them ride the wave. Don’t resecuse them or try to fix it. Show them that their emotins will go back down, but we have to wait it out.
Create a Hierarcy of Stress/Fear
What is the easiest thing, all the way to the hardest thing to do. Asking a friend to come over after school is the goal. What are the easier steps in between?
- Saying hello
- asking about their weekend,
- hanging out at recess,
- going to the park after school
- asking them to come over after school.
This will take some work. Try not to resecuse them. We want to jump in a take their stress away, but we have to teach them how to handle these expereices with confidence.
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