Over the last few days have your second, third or fourth grader’s been whining, melting down, or crying more than usual?
Are they having a harder time following directions or getting along with their siblings?
Have they been loudly complaining that they hate school, impossible to take back-to-school shopping, even refusing to go to the open house?
None of this happened to me… I promise… really! 😉
Don’t worry– you are not alone… kids everywhere in this mid-elementary age segment are struggling with the return to school! And it makes sense… these kids have NEVER had a school year not disrupted by COVID. For them, school is masks, lots of screens, not being able to play tag on the playground, social distancing, repeated hand washing and sanitizing, lunch at separate desks, all kinds of new rules, no field trips, overly (and RIGHTFULLY SO) stressed teachers, and totally flabbergasted, frustrated, and flummoxed parents. For them school is simply… not fun.
This is even more challenging after the fun and freedom of this summer, where most kids felt a little more carefree… they had more independence than ever and they were finally able to run around unmasked, go to birthday parties again, family picnics during concerts and movies in the park, sleepovers with camp friends, eating ice cream with their friends, wrestle with anyone and everyone. All the normal, healthy things we want our kids to be doing.
So, for them, starting school feels isn’t just the end of their summer fun, but they are returning to the fall of 2020. I’d be upset, too!
But this transition isn’t impossible, here are five simple strategies and tips to get you through:
1) Use Your Words – Help them put words to their feelings. Examples include, “You may be extra upset about going to school because you remember the masks, the distancing, etc.”
2) You Should be Bummed! – Proactively validate those feelings clearly and often – “OF course you are worried about it! That makes so much sense, the last few years of school have been really hard and that’s all you know. I get that school has been not so fun the last few years and it is really sad to think about going back.”
3) 2020 was 730 Days Ago! – Remind them that things will be different this year. Sit down with them and make a list of things that will be the same and things that will be different. Friends will probably be mostly the same and lunch with a group is probably going to be different and maybe better! Putting it down on paper often makes all the change of a new school year feel easier!
4) Get Active and Connected – Help them think of familiar ways to cope with their feelings. Playing outside, calling a friend, coloring, reading, snuggling, dancing, are all healthy ways of dealing with mad, sad, worried, and anxious feelings. Help them choose a few of favorite activities, maybe do them together, to see if it helps them feel better!
5) Call the Pros! – If the stress level stays high after the school year starts, call your child’s teacher or school counselor. But give it a few weeks to see if the routine helps them settle down. If they seem to still be having a hard time, call a therapist or your pediatrician to see if they have any strategies for you. Sometimes just one session can do wonders!
6) HANG IN THERE YOURSELF!
This transition will not be for the faint of heart. I’m dealing with it too. Every day I remind myself that this, too, shall pass. Take time out yourself, be kind to you and your partner, connect and collaborate with other parents going through the exact same challenges. Or try one of my personal coping strategies and write about it so you can avoid all the feelings in the other room!
PS- If you are interested in a parent consult session or therapy for your child, give us a call at (434) 202 4080 or search for a therapist by location on our locations tab!