Many schools are resuming in-person learning and back to school anxiety for a lot of students and parents is higher than ever. Aside from the general school stress that kids have suffered in the past, COVID-19 poses new risks, questions, and fears for many.
After 6 months of staying at home, school districts are beginning to bring students back to the classroom. A lot has changed in these short 6 months. Experts are now advising people on what to do in the “new normal.”
The first thing you should do to cope with back-to-school anxiety is to be prepared. Since many new things are happening in today’s world, having a solid preparedness level can help you feel more confident about going back to school.
You should also find cathartic activities such as keeping a diary or journal that can help you ease anxiety. These activities differ from each age group, so we have created a general guideline on coping with anxiety, depending on the education level of you or your children.
Tips to Ease Back to School Anxiety
Easing back to school anxiety will look different depending on how old your children are. In some instances, parents may be more anxious than their children and this is completely normal. It’s crucial to keep in mind that no one has ever experienced this unique set of challenges before, and everyone is figuring things out together.
For Elementary School Students
For parents of elementary students, you must help your kids manage their back to school anxiety. Since children are not fully aware of managing their own emotions at this age yet, it is up to the parents to create a safe environment for their kids. Use the tips below to help your young children cope with going back to school.
1. Maintain Open Communication
The most important thing is that you and your kids have open communication with each other. If something is bothering them, teach them that they can approach you. As parents, it is your job never to invalidate your kid’s concern. No matter how minor it is, take the time to listen to your children’s fears or worries and to assure them that you are there for them no matter what.
2. Create a Coping Skills Toolbox
Children love having new things. Here, you can put their favorite toys, small puzzles, and other things that can lighten up their mood. You can even put in a bottle of their favorite scent so that they can immediately feel good when they open the box. Since COVID-19 still poses a threat, you should also include personal protective equipment like a mask or hand soap in their coping skills toolbox. When your kids are feeling stressed encourage them to open the box and use the tools inside.
3. Start Preparing Your Kids Early
Before school even starts, you need to ease your kids into going back to school slowly. Start by sending them to bed early and waking them up for an early breakfast. With this method, you can slowly adjust their body’s internal clock.
During the day, you can also act as their teacher and review their past lessons so that they can grow accustomed to being taught again. Get them used to wearing a mask for long periods of time.
4. Communicate with Other Parents
During these hard times, we have no one else but each other to get us through. It is essential that you know other parents in the school to get the latest news if something is happening in the school. Having an open line of communication with other parents can help ease your own worries.
5. Teach Children about Hygiene
To keep everyone you love safe, you should make it your goal that kids understand the importance of washing their hands thoroughly and frequently. This means in between each finger as well as the front and back. School stress is an important issue, especially for younger kids, and with the pandemic currently affecting all of us, you should try to make lessons about hygiene as fun and as easy as possible.
For High School Students
High school students are likely to feel back to school stress, as at this age they are able to understand what’s happening on the news. They also often have access to social media, where they may see information that is troubling. At this age, adolescents are forming their own opinions on world events and they are likely very in-tune with what is happening around them. Use the tips below to help your high school-aged kids manage school stress.
1. Be Aware of Any News Announcements
Since COVID-19, a lot of things have changed, and until we achieve the new normal, things will continue to change on an on-going basis. That is why you should always keep yourself up to date about new announcements so that you may ease your worries that you are missing out on anything. This may include a change in school policy, the need to temporarily quarantine, or canceling of school events like sports games or dances.
2. Prepare Your Hygiene Kit
You should be aware that anxiety often comes from the sense of being in danger, even without knowing why. Being prepared can help you lessen the level of back to school anxiety you are feeling.
Having alcohol wipes and hand sanitizer is essential, but you should also add other things to avoid the virus. Having an extra face mask neatly wrapped in plastic can be useful when the mask you are wearing is suddenly unusable, or if you need to provide one to a friend.
3. Keep a Diary or Journal
You might want to release some emotions, especially your anxiety, but you don’t know how to yet. The best thing you can do is keep a diary or journal to relax a little and ease your anxiety. Writing down your thoughts can be cathartic to you, and by keeping a diary or journal, you will feel less alone while dealing with this situation.
Having a journal can also help you to manage your school stress. You can start writing in a notebook even before school starts so that it becomes a habit that can easily help you manage your back to school anxiety.
For College Students
College students are facing many unique challenges right now, and while you may be staying on campus you may also be facing the hurdles of virtual learning. Use these tips to manage your anxiety and to have a successful school year.
1. Reconnect with Your Friends
College life is hard, even before COVID-19 happened. But it is your friends and families that can get you through these hard parts of your life. Having people to talk to who are also dealing with the same situation can help you feel less alone and decrease the level of anxiety you are feeling.
While you should avoid large groups of people, stay in contact with your loved ones via text message and virtual hangout rooms. Make it a regular thing. Set a day and time and sign-on weekly for a hangout session.
2. Skip the Party
Not only is it harmful to go to parties at this point but it might also increase your anxiety. Spending Friday nights at parties with your friends can be fun but you should learn how to skip these events and focus on keeping yourself safe instead. Your friends might be inviting you to a party and while it is tempting, it is best to decline, at least for now.
By avoiding these situations, you have fewer things to worry about since you are making sure that you are actively taking care of your health. If you are feeling stressed at any point, you can instead try some meditation exercises that can help you overcome your anxiety.
3. Keep a Diary or Journal
With COVID-19 still posing a threat and with school stress a very real struggle for many individuals, you will benefit greatly if you keep a diary or journal every day. You can write anything you want, even your worries and fears. You can also use prompt questions to start your journal if you have no idea what to write down.
You can start managing your back to school anxiety by starting a journal where you can freely write what triggers your school stress.
4. Visit a Therapist
If your school provides therapy during these trying times, you can take advantage of this if you need extra help. School stress was predominant even before the pandemic, that’s why a lot of schools try to help their students with mental health needs. Having a professional to talk to can help you feel more confident with how you proceed with your college life during the pandemic.
If your school does not provide such services, you can Google nearby establishments that offer counseling sessions. You can also find organizations online that offer those services for free for certain demographics. Try an app-based program or online platform if you’re more comfortable speaking with a professional digitally.
Adjusting to Going Back to School
It is difficult to adjust to the new normal while facing the stress of going to school. Back to school anxiety has always been a serious matter, and it is important to address the triggers that cause it. You can take steps to lessen your anxiety and still try to make the best out of your current situation.