Written by: Alexa Bandala
Once again, school is here! As Covid restrictions shift, children are beginning to go back to school in-person. Even though schools look a bit different in this era of Covid, many students are excited to go back and be reunited with their friends, classmates, and teachers after a year or more of at-home learning.
However, there are children who might not be so eager to go back. Some little ones are struggling with these changes and are experiencing apprehension, fear, and anxiety. This is completely normal, and it can be hard for parents to ease their child’s anxieties and help them feel more comfortable through this transition.
One of our amazing therapists and mental health experts on staff, Christina Cremo, LMFT, has some wonderful insight to prepare families for these uncertain times. So here are 5 tips for how to help your child assimilate back to in-person learning!
1. Organize your schedule, create a routine, & be consistent.
According to Christina (and many sources such as the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Administration for Children and Families), creating a consistent routine is one of the best ways to help children adjust to new situations. It helps them feel more comfortable when they have experienced a drastic change in their lives, such as what occurred during lockdowns. Structure is predictable, consistent, and reliable; which can help alleviate some anxiety.
2. Do daily check-ins.
Christina recommends something she calls a “high and low” check-in. “What was the hardest part of your day?” “What was the best part of your day?” “Do you have anything special that you would like to share?” These sort of questions open up communication regarding a child’s interests and potential struggles.
3. Teach healthy coping skills.
Your child might experience times when their anxiety about going back to school, wearing masks, or learning of a friend or family member who may have contracted Covid can be too overwhelming. For these moments of panic, Christina suggests teaching them calming activities such as taking 3 belly breaths. (Put your hand on your belly and slowly make your hand rise with your inhale and fall with your exhale) Another breathing exercise is called “Box breathing.” (breath in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, out for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds; with 4 repetitions) They could also try using sensory items such as fidget items, beaded bracelets, or stress balls.
4. Teach them (or remind them) about health hygiene.
It is important to teach children what is within their control. Teach proper methods of handwashing, how to keep appropriate distance from peers and staff in the school setting, how to properly wear a mask, and the importance of not sharing food or drinks.
5. Seek mental health support.
Children are rather resilient, but there are times when children need a little extra support to help them reduce symptoms that may interfere with their ability to learn. If your child appears to be struggling with anxiety or depression and they are not finding relief using coping skills, seek professional support.
If you have any more mental-health, non-emergency related questions, please call our office at (916) 774-6802. KidsFirst offers free services for families in the Placer County area, and if needed we would be happy to pair you up with one of our amazing mental health professionals like Christina. We hope these tips are helpful to you! Stay safe, happy and healthy!