After the challenges of last year and in the hope of getting back to normal a bit, some schools and parents have opted for in-person and hybrid back-to-school models. To ease the return to classes, I’m sharing the tips that have been most helpful to me.
This upcoming school year implies getting to see friends, having some sort of schedule again, and having the opportunity to get new clothes, backpacks, and school supplies. Children get to be children again. There are still concerns about keeping them safe from the latest variants of COVID-19, and this is a big step for those who have decided to send their children back to the classroom or do a hybrid model.
Unfortunately, some kids may be stressed about going back. For them, home was a safe haven that protected them from various factors they faced at school. And, children who are excited to go back will now have to adapt to learning with the COVID-19 protocols in place. Either way, this transition back to school can be a bit stressful for children, so here are some helpful tips.
How to Know if Your Child is Having a Hard Time
Think about how your child normally acts when stressed and keep an eye out for those behaviors. For example, if your child has headaches or stomachaches when anxious, you’ll know that school is stressing them out if you see these signs. We tend to adopt certain behaviors when we are stressed. If you know how your children behave when stressed, you’ll probably see these behaviors as they enter a new situation, such as returning to in-person classes.
A Helping Hand for Teens
Remember what you were like as a teenager. Some of us were social and loud, but others of us were shy and quiet. Regardless of our personalities, most of us probably kept our crushes and tough times a secret. While it is natural to want to know everything that happens in your teen’s life, meddling or being bossy will only make things worse.
If your teenager has generally been coping well, give them some space. If you’re worried, you can always say things like, “You seem a little stressed. You know, I’m always here for you. If you want to talk to me, I’m here.” This is known as the “raindrop” effect. It basically entails giving your child little hints so that they know they can talk to you if things get tough. The “raindrops” are sayings like: ‘You know, I’m here’ or ‘I’ll be in my office if you want to talk.’ Give those little hints and your kids will come to you when they feel comfortable.
Calm them gently and gradually. Don’t overwhelm your teens with questions; give them space. They know you’re there. It’s just a matter of assuring them that if things go wrong, you can help. Let your teen know that you are available to talk, but if, for whatever reason, they don’t want to come to you, make sure they have someone else to talk to. You can say, “Aunt X is a good person to talk to” or “Uncle X asks about you all the time.” This can generate links to other trusted adults.
What About the Little Ones?
Younger children have a harder time expressing big emotions, and it is difficult for parents to deal with tantrums when they are overwhelmed. For younger children, experts recommend establishing basic behavioral rules. For example, it’s okay to be upset. It’s okay to be afraid. But it is not okay to hit or kick. Physical harm is not okay, ever. Try to encourage them to talk about their feelings when they are angry. Ask them why they are upset or explain how they can share their feelings with you.
How to Deal with COVID-19 Rule-Breaking
You’ve been doing everything you can to keep everyone under your roof safe for over a year. But one thing is inevitable: your child will have classmates who are living back in 2019, with no masks, no social distancing, and no respect for COVID-19 at all. What can you do if your child starts to break the rules, too? Try to help them understand that staying safe isn’t just about them, but about all the other people they care about.
You could say something like, ‘You know it’s important for our family to be safe, and you have to think about your grandmother, father, and sister.’ For teens and pre-teens, it all comes down to helping them realize that right now is not the time to focus on themselves. This is difficult because these age groups can be very self-centered and are also easily influenced by their peers. The important thing is to plant a seed of awareness, explaining that they should be empathetic and make the best decisions for themselves and their family, especially when you’re not around.
If Things Get Complicated, Seek Help
Raising children during a pandemic has not been easy for anyone. When parents try to get through tough times or work it out on their own, the process can be even more challenging and exhausting. Instead of going it alone, reach out to other people involved in caring for your child. This includes teachers, coaches, your pediatrician, and even child psychologists.
And most importantly, take care of yourself. You won’t be able to take care of your kids if you don’t take care of yourself first, and this also helps you become a great role model for them. We all think that children want to be like their friends, but they do actually trust their parents on the important things. So take care of yourself and continue taking care of those you love the most.