Back to School: 6 Tips for Helping Kids Adapt to Change
After more than a year of exclusive or optional online learning, some school districts are eliminating virtual programs in favor of in-person attendance, and even when the option remains, many parents have decided it’s in their child’s best interest to return to school this fall.
For children preparing to go back in-person, we can expect an adjustment period after being homebound for more than a year, learning and socializing through screens. It may also be true that the school environment they have known since kindergarten has changed, with many areas still requiring masks and social distancing, smaller class sizes, scheduled hand-sanitizing and more. Those who remain online may also experience difficulties, continuing to cope with isolation while friends and peers return to school and extracurricular activities. As parents and guardians, we want to do everything we can to help them through this, even when we may be struggling ourselves—change is hard for all of us.
Luckily, there are a few ways we can help our kids through this time, and perhaps we can apply these tips on our own, as well. Here are a few things to keep in mind as we begin a new semester.
- Engage in open and honest conversation with kids about how they’re feeling. They’re going to have thoughts and feelings about the new school year, whether it’s anxiety about going back in-person or concern about keeping up with online coursework. Recognize and honor their feelings. Maybe this isn’t how they wanted to begin their one-and-only senior year—acknowledge that this is a loss, and it’s okay to grieve for it.
- Establish a daily routine. Whatever the new school year will look like, the more you can incorporate any changes into your routine, the easier it will be to adapt to them. Create time-blocks for at-home learning, or begin to adjust to wake-up and meal times a few weeks ahead of the school year. Kids thrive off of structure.
- Practice flexibility and patience. Even if we ease into the new routine, not every day will go smoothly. As our children continue to adjust, we should keep working on flexibility and patience, acknowledging progress rather than expecting perfection.
- Model good behavior and coping skills for kids; they look up to us. Show them how to be open with your feelings, how to be flexible, how to maintain a schedule. Be a good role model (and remember that practice makes us better).
- Encourage asking for help and seeking social support. Whether your child is attending school in person or virtually, there are many avenues to ask for help, and many ways to stay connected to the friends, family and teachers who provide love and support.
- Finally, it may help to keep in mind that what we are experiencing is temporary. In time, things will settle down and feel normal again. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and we will all get through this together.
If you, your child or a loved one could use additional support, Ethos Wellness’ master’s-level clinicians can help. Learn about our services for children and adolescents, or contact our care team confidentially.