Going back to school is always a stressful time for everyone involved.
We as parents are worried about getting everything done on time, making sure we have purchased everything our child needs, organizing transportation to and from school, and trying to figure a new routine out.
On the other hand, our kids might be worried about things like fitting in, seeing people they like or dislike again, how their appearance has changes over the summer, how they will fit in this year, and many other things.
This year in particular is more stressful than most – with the Covid-19 pandemic not showing any signs of letting up, both parents and children find themselves facing the unknown, considering health and safety issues and even more logistical hurdles than before.
Let’s look at some of the ways you can cut down the stress surrounding going back to school, and how to make the most of it:
The first, and probably most important thing you can do is keep a positive attitude about the entire situation. Negative thoughts, stressing out and worrying will not change anything about the reality, and they will only make you feel much worse than you need to.
While it can be incredibly difficult to keep looking at things on the bright side, you can build this habit if you keep at it. Whenever something unpleasant, or just plain stress-inducing arises, take a minute to find something good about the situation, and focus on that.
Don’t transfer your negativity to your child(ren)
Kids are incredibly adept at picking up feelings, so if you are stressed, they will not only know, but start to feel stressed themselves. The “happy mom = happy baby” saying is true even when they are much more grown up.
If you need to vent some of your accumulated stress about going back to school, find a way to do it that will not be perceptible to your child. Talk to a fellow parent or your spouse, talk to your own parents, or just do some exercise, meditate, unwind – anything that helps you stay in a more positive mood when talking to your child about going back to school is a good way to go.
Know what to expect
Going back to school during the pandemic is very different than what we are all used to. In order to minimize stress levels for both yourself and your child, make sure you know what it will actually look like.
Talk to your child’s school and teacher about the measures that will be enforced, and make sure you are ready to comply. This might mean you need to figure out a new way to get to school, if carpooling is no longer an option. You might need to start earlier than usual, if you need to add in extra time for hand sanitization and putting a face mask on. It might mean you need to pack extra snacks or hand sanis in your child’s bag.
As each school district will be doing something differently, make sure you get your information from your school, and not online.
Talk to you child(ren) about what is coming
Having an open conversation with your kids about school is the best way to ease them back into it. Talk about everything from the logistics of getting there, what they can expect to change this year, how important social distancing is and how to clean their hands, when and with what, and so on.
Other than that, make sure to also cover all of the positive as well, and not just focus on the precautions. Talk about what they are excited to be learning this year, what they will tell their friends about their summer, and so on.
If your child has any specific worries or fears, do your best to talk through their anxiety. They may not want to talk to you at first, so don’t force them to, and just be there for them if and when they do want to open up.
Establish a new healthy routine
Summer routines are very different from school night ones, as we all know very well. Don’t wait for the first week of school to arrive to make the changes you know need to be implemented. Start early and let everyone get used to the new schedule, and see if any alterations need to still be made.
Enforce an earlier bedtime, and make sure your kids are getting plenty of sleep, as it is a great way to boost both their focus and creativity, and their immune system.
Make sure they are getting their five a day each day, and pay special attention to providing an extra healthy breakfast, to start the day off right. Pack some healthy and tasty lunches, so that they have something to look forward to during their break.
Have a backup plan
More than any other school year, this one will likely be spent under a bit of a cloud. We don’t really know how long schools will stay open for, and we don’t know what reopening them actually means in terms of health and safety.
If schools are going to close again, try to be more prepared than during the past spring. Come up with a list of activities you can do at home that will keep the kids entertained and active, and reach for them if we go back into lockdown.
If you have to do a bit of homeschooling or even just extra schoolwork at home, make sure you have plenty of educational activities available already, like workbooks and worksheets, math games and puzzles, books to read and problems to solve.
Remember you also need to celebrate
Even though going back to school is fraught with stress, you shouldn’t forget that it’s also a time of great excitement. After all, you only get so many of these occasions, and the kids do grow up so fast, we need to remember that these moments need to be celebrated and remembered.
Throw a little celebration together to mark the occasion. It might need to be a socially distanced or a virtual gathering, but you can take it up on a notch in terms of the food you serve and the sweets you bake, and some back to school presents will also come in handy.
This will be a great way to remind the kids that going to school is a lot of fun, pandemic or no pandemic, and that they will still get to see friends and learn new things and grow their minds and bodies, even if it’s not quite the same as it used to be.
To sum it up
As long as you remember to breathe, find a way to ease your stress levels and prepare in advance, going back to school shouldn’t be too stressful, and you can also have a lot of fun in the process.
Are you getting ready for school yet? How are your kids feeling about it, and what are you doing to make the transition go as smoothly as possible?