Happy (Academic) New Year – Tips for Coping with the Back-to-School Season
Many parents and children alike look forward to this time of year, filled with the excited anticipation of a season marked by change and transition. The temperatures drop, the colours change, and families typically settle in for an exciting return to structure, routine, and a new year of learning. Certainly, the past 18 months have taken their toll, and this year’s back-to-school energy feels perhaps a bit more subdued, a tad more uncertain, as families make the best decisions they can surrounding their children’s education in a time when health and wellness is less taken for granted.
As many students return to either in-person or hybrid learning models, many are welcoming this as a relief and a reassuring sign that our progress through the pandemic is gaining traction. At the same time, with virus variants spreading among our communities, many parents are experiencing some level of anxiety and anticipation over fluctuating pandemic statistics, shifting rules and regulations around health and safety, and uncertainty about what lies ahead. Children as well are not immune to the fears and stress associated with living in a COVID-19 world. Here are some tips to help you and your child adjust to the new school year:
- Check in with your child daily. Put away the distractions, sit together, make eye contact, and have a conversation about how their day went, what went well, and anything they are struggling with. Spending a few dedicated minutes each day with your child lets them know that their feelings are cared about, valid, and important.
- Stay in touch with your child’s teacher and other administrative supports. The best way to boost feelings of safety and security in sending your child back to school is to know what’s happening inside your child’s classroom and school community to keep them safe and supported. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about how your child will be supported in their learning, or about how they will be kept safe during the pandemic.
- Focus on the positive. Celebrate your child’s (and your own) daily wins, large or small. You might start a gratitude practice at the dinner table, encouraging your child to identify 1-3 things that they did well or that they enjoyed that day. Or, you might limit social media use and exposure to those negative news stories that bring additional scoops of worry and anxiety.
- Stay connected. Despite social limitations lifting, many people are still choosing to socially distance (and that’s ok!) Do your best to stay connected to your family and community, taking advantage of fun outdoor activities and technology that lets you stay in touch with your loved ones.
- Ensure your basic needs are met. There are a lot of things we can’t control during this pandemic, but we can help ourselves and our children by aiming for a good night’s sleep, balanced nutrition, adequate hydration, time and space to move our bodies, and connecting with others for support.
- Practice mindfulness (or, a non-judgmental awareness of the present moment). Join with your child in deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, a calming nature walk, or other ways of being grounded in the present. Mindfulness practice is a powerful antidote to those anxious thoughts and feelings that drag worries about the future into your present experience.
- Be kind to yourself and others. Remember that you (and everyone else) is doing their best in the midst of a global event that is unprecedented in the modern world. Compassion for yourself and for others is an important step in staying well this school year.
- Seek out extra support. If you or your child is struggling, know that it’s okay to reach out for additional professional support. At Back in Motion, we have a team of counsellors ready and willing to meet with you to offer emotional or practical supports for whatever it is you are struggling with. You are not alone in this, and help is available.
Author: Jennifer Baker, MEd, RCC, PMH-C
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