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5 Ways to Calm Anxious Kids Heading Back To School

After months at home and a cautious summer, some children may feel anxious about going to school. Here’s how to smooth the transition.

Recognize and validate what your child is feeling.

Young children and some kids with special needs may not have the vocabulary to express how they feel. Look for behaviours that indicate they are feeling anxious, like crying, irritability, stomachaches or clinginess, You can also mention various reasons that a child might feel upset, for example: “It may be hard because you’ve never been there before you don’t know the kids, you don’t know the teacher.”

Then end on a positive note: “I know you can do it and we’re going to figure out ways to help you.”

Introduce your kids to mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the experience of being open and aware in the present moment, without passing judgment or letting the mind wander. Being more mindful is something that both grown-ups and children can practice, and it can help children identify and cope with tough emotions that they might experience during the first days of school or camp.

To get started, think about what your child is likely to be feeling during those initial days or weeks, then give them something they can do to make them feel better

Establish a new routine.

If your children have been going to sleep later than usual during the pandemic and waking up late, start them on a new schedule at least a couple of weeks ahead of school or camp, the experts said.

Build a morning routine that feels comfortable, safe and nurturing. Consider incorporating something calming, like reading a book together.

On the first day of school — even if it’s just the first full day transitioning away from a hybrid schedule — try to mark the transition in a special way. Consider getting a new outfit or backpack, for example, or cooking a favourite breakfast.

Or you can create a new routine by giving your child a memento to take to school each day. You can take a picture of yourself, for example, and put it inside a locket or glue it on a piece of paper that gets tucked inside their lunchbox.

Communicate with your child’s teacher.

It’s important to chat with the teachers and support people who have been providing services to your child during virtual learning: What recommendations do they have to support your child’s return to school?

Don’t talk about school too often or too early.

As school approaches, you can start discussing what your child’s classroom and schedule will look like, but try not to bring it up too often.

Some children, for example, might need a little more preparation if they did not attend preschool during the pandemic and will be attending kindergarten for the first time in the fall.

One way to prepare for school, aside from talking or reading about it, is to organize small play dates with other kids who will be attending your child’s school or summer camp. That way, they can look forward to seeing a few friends on the first day.


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