This year brings additional stressors that could make the normal back-to-school anxiety a little more potent. We’ve compiled a few tips to help you take control of those first-day jitters in advance.
DEVELOP A ROUTINE
We all know that uncertainty can play a significant role in anxiety, and the past 18 months have already provided enough of it to last a lifetime. As your kids prepare to go back to school — in-person, virtually, or a combination — outline a routine to guide your family through daily and weekly life. Include details like approximate times for going to bed and waking up, meals and snacks, specific classes, lessons or activities, and expected arrivals and departures for those that will be leaving the house. You can even take it a step further by using a calendar in a central location as a snapshot of all family functions, menus for each day, chores, etc. Start practicing the routine a few days or weeks before the semester starts. The more predictable you can make your family's days, the more at ease everyone will feel.
LET YOUR CHILD MAKE DECISIONS
Anxiety often surfaces when we feel like we've lost control over our day-to-day lives. Although we always have our children's best interests at heart when we make decisions for them, kids still crave the ability to hold the reins themselves from time to time, too. One way you can give your child a sense of control is to offer them decision-making power over small things, like what to wear or what to pack for lunch. Whether you give them curated options to choose from or declare open season on closet and pantry, allowing your kids to make these selections can help foster independence, highlight individuality, and perhaps even lead to excitement for the school day ahead.
Sleep is the body's way of repairing and restoring itself, and it plays a critical role in learning and memory. According to the National Sleep Foundation, children need anywhere from eight to 13 hours of sleep a night for optimal brain function, depending on age. As anyone with kids understands, getting those little ones to bed on time can be a difficult task. There are some steps you can take to create healthy sleep habits that ensure your child gets the recommended shut-eye (at least on school nights).
LEAVE SPACE FOR OPEN DIALOGUE
Talk to your kids. Returning to school comes with a standard set of butterflies for parents and children, and the unknowns of the 2020-2021 school year are sure to have a whole host of other bugs buzzing around inside us, too. Let your kids know that any concerns they're feeling are natural and that you'll learn to navigate this new normal together. Addressing anxiety head-on allows you to teach your child how to overcome negative thoughts and emotions instead of bottling them up. Set aside regular times to check in, like over a meal, and watch for signs that regular back-to-school anxiety isn't becoming something more.
Joining the PTA, becoming a room parent, or finding other ways to participate in school events is an impactful way to connect with faculty, staff, and other parents. Your knowledge and insight about campus and members of the school community will allow you to address your child's concerns better and build a positive support network for them. If other obligations make this kind of volunteer involvement unrealistic, you can stay involved by attending parent-teacher nights, parent-teacher meetings, and other family-centered events.
Even with best-laid plans, it's likely that some amount of back-to-school anxiety will still rear its head — but we at Green Goo sincerely hope these tips help make a smooth transition. Best of luck in the new school year and beyond!