Back to School: How to Help Your Kids Adjust

Back to School: How to Help Your Kids Adjust

It may be hard to believe, but back to school is almost, well, back. The 2021-2022 school year will likely usher in more than just groans, jumps for joy, or new grade or school jitters—for kids and parents alike.

“A lot of uncertainty still remains from the pandemic,” said Betsy Beckman, MD, pediatrician with Holland Hospital Pediatrics & Internal Medicine. “There may be lingering questions about health and safety, such as when and where to wear masks, as well as worries about how to get kids ready academically, socially and emotionally for their return to school this year.”

To help quell doubts and fears before the first bell rings, consider these tips:

Address Anxieties

  • Start a dialogue and set an optimistic tone about what the future holds. Considering pandemic mandates, lockdowns and general precautionary stay-togetherness, when school resumes your child might feel anxious about being separated from you and home again. Some examples of helpful phrasing or questions include: “I’m going to miss you, but I am so proud of you for going back to school.”; I’m really excited about the new things we’re going to do together this year.”; and “What’s something you’re looking forward to doing when you’re back in class?”
  • Encourage them to share their feelings and talk about what would make them more comfortable in the new year. Acknowledging that the pandemic happened (and is ongoing) and how that’s impacted your child’s life validates their feelings and creates a positive path forward.
  • Create a goodbye ritual, such as two hugs and/or a kiss on each cheek. A confident, loving goodbye will help them feel safe, as well as reinforce that you believe they’ll be okay.

Here are some other ways to ease their anxiety.

Plan Ahead

  • Prepare your kids for their return to school. Find out about their school supply list and make it a special day to purchase the needed items. Go shopping and have lunch together while discussing their first day back.
  • Practice your child’s back-to-school routine a week or so in advance. That means waking up early enough to plan for eating breakfast, packing lunches, gathering belongings and catching the bus or carpool. Take a test drive to the school to play on the playground and/or check out the building facade and entrance.
  • Be mindful of sleep. Changes in sleep schedules can have a profound effect on our mood and behavior. Two or three weeks before summer break ends, begin easing wake-up times earlier and bedtimes later by about 15 to 30 minutes every few days, so the first days back are less disruptive to their sleep schedule.
  • Reinforce consistent mask wearing. Kids may have gotten out of the habit this summer, but now that they will be indoors with a whole new group of people, wearing masks is the best way to keep them safe and healthy. If your child is 12 or older, have them vaccinated for COVID-19. It’s not too late to get them protected!

Last but not least, celebrate the beginning of the new school year. Play a game, or enjoy a good book, movie or special dessert together to help your child(ren) relax that first evening back home.

Looking for a pediatrician or primary care physician? Our primary care patient coordinator can help match you to one who best meets your needs. Call (616) 394-3200.

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