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Summer is flying by, and that means that it’s almost time for kids to get back to school. But “back to school” in 2021 is unlike anything any parent has ever had to deal with. Most school districts are welcoming kids back for in-person learning, with a wide range of caveats. Masks? Social distancing?
Whatever rules your district has established, there’s one common denominator all parents will face as they send their kids back to school: the possibility that your child will experience anxiety when they return to class. An article on Unicef.org includes the following observation: “Dropping children off at daycare or school is a typical time for them to start showing signs of separation anxiety. Because of the events of this past year, older children may have an even more difficult time during school drop off, also fearing that they may not be safe due to COVID-19.”
With that in mind, Unicef offers the following advice for helping your child feel safe as they return to old routines.
Listen to your child. Talk to older children about any concerns they might have. With younger children, consider asking them to draw some pictures about what they expect. Encourage them to draw a picture of you returning to pick them up.
Help them prepare. Learn what if any new rules will be in place at your school. Explain to your children what the rules are, using language appropriate to their age.
Keep calm. Kids mirror adults’ behavior. Staying calm helps your child ease back into their routine.
Have a leaving plan. Talk in advance about how you will drop them off. Be positive, remind your child you’ll be coming back for them and do not hesitate when leaving.
If your child has expressed their concern about safety, there are steps you can take to help them feel at ease. Especially with older children, be open and honest about the situation. Describe the changes they can expect to see, and assure them safety measures are in place. It’s also advisable to check with your child about their feelings. “Be proactive but be calm,” says Unicef. “Children often take their emotional cues from the key adults in their lives, so it’s important that you listen to child’s concerns, speak kindly and be reassuring. Be prepared that their emotions may change and let them know that this is completely okay.”