How to Prepare Your Child for an Abnormal School Year

Our kids experienced a huge disruption to their routine at the end of last school year, and it’s highly likely that many things will be different once they return. This can cause a great deal of anxiety for various reasons. Some children may be nervous about the unknown structure, while others might be worried about separating from their caregivers after being together all the time. It’s impossible to prepare them for every detail going in to the new year, but there are steps you can take to ease some of the anxiety about going back. Here are some tips:

  1. Start with a talk. Ask some open-ended questions on how they are feeling about going back to school. Listen for any emotions they express, and let them know they’re completely normal. If there is a particular circumstance or situation that is worrying them, brainstorm ways that you can work together to make them feel more prepared.
  2. Ask your child to identify the positives of going back to school. Many kids are really excited to see their friends and teachers again. While we know the transition back could be stressful, try to shift their minds towards the positives, while acknowledging that some things might be difficult as well.
  3. Review the COVID-19 basics. Chances are, masks and physical distancing won’t be going away once the school year begins. Practice playing with masks on and keeping the 6 foot distance, or 2 arms’ length away for our little kiddos.
  4. Start getting back into a routine at home when it comes to sleep, eating, and schoolwork. This is something we would want to do every summer regardless of the situation. Shifting back into structured bed times, wake times, and meal times helps with transition. Also, scheduling some “schoolwork” times into their daily routine in the weeks leading up to the new year can be helpful. Let your child pick a book that they would like to read or maybe find some educational worksheets for them to complete during these structured times.
  5. Practice a “school day.” Going along with the last tip, practice what a typical day might look like, including getting up and getting dressed and “leaving” for school in the morning (which may just be the next room over). If your child is really anxious about going back, it may even be helpful to take a practice drive to the school, if the caregiver’s time allows. Find out about what a typical day will look like for your child upon their return, and find creative ways to play this out at home.
  6. Praise your child for being flexible and adjusting to change. Let’s face it, change is hard for all of us sometimes. As your kids participate in any of these activities, make sure to praise them for their practice, flexibility, and openness to change. They’ve been through a lot this year, so they definitely deserve to be recognized for being resilient.