Let alone during a pandemic, going back to school may be stressful at the best of times for children. Children are facing a whole host of other potential stressors as going to school enables them to get school supplies, new clothes, teachers, and the eagerness of seeing classmates for the first time in months. The following is an insight for parents on how to help their children through this potentially troubling time.
OBSERVE THE SYMPTOMS
Steven Taylor, a clinical psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the University of British Columbia said parents should understand their children well and pinpoint when their children are acting strangely. Taylor added that when the very younger ones are anxious or stressed, they express it through things like tummy aches or headaches or an increase in irritability or tantrums as they might not have the verbal ability to describe how they’re feeling or their concerns.
Also, younger children may go back to bedwetting again. Taylor anticipated that younger children would not be more affected than older children. He said this is because they are less likely to understand the situation. He added that the more people know how serious this pandemic is and how it can affect people, the more it’s going to have an impact on people. In the meantime, Taylor said though older children can also appear preoccupied or have a decrease in appetite, they are more likely to express how they might be feeling verbally.
OPEN COMMUNICATION LINES
Taylor indicated that parents should make sure the communication lines are open if they notice something might be off with their child. He noted that a lot of times, kids just want to be heard and be comforted, and parents may not have all the answers at the time, but they can work through it together. He also added that as long as parents are there in supporting their kids through it, that should be helpful to them. Besides, Nicole Haughton, a registered psychologist in the Toronto area, said that it was crucial for parents to focus on three key aspects: pay attention to their worries, recognizing their fears, and empathizing with what the children might be going through.
LET THEM KNOW THESE FEELINGS LIKELY WON’T LAST
Taylor stated that it was essential for children to understand that the adjustments in day-to-day classroom life that may be making them uneasy will become routine in a matter of weeks. He said in the first few days, many kids are going to be anxious during the first couple of weeks. He also added that he was expecting that after that thing is over, people will start to settle down, and the levels of anxiety should drop. Rather than taking the bus during the first few days, Taylor suggested driving children directly to the school to help them relax.
VISIT THE SCHOOL GROUNDS BEFOREHAND
Haughton said it could be a nice idea visiting the school grounds beforehand so that a child can familiarize him/herself with the facilities, even if a parent can’t go inside, given that most Canadian kids have not been to school since the March Break. Haughton also said that visiting the school before classes start can be extra helpful for students attending a new school this fall. She noted that some kids who are starting a new school should have a walk to the new school, shoot hoops, and play in the yard to acquaint them with the environment.
GET THE FLU SHOT
Taylor said it’s essential to “reduce the burden of stress” on the children, like ensuring they are protected from other illnesses, to help ease the anxiety of going to class. He noted that it was significant for parents to get their children vaccinated, in reducing one other stressor on the kids. He is hoping that people will have a mild cold and flu season this year because of the added precautions.