Transitioning Back to School

elementary class at schoolFull-time school is set to resume this fall. While this news may be exciting for some children, for others it’s a source of anxiety. Typical back to school jitters are compounded by unique uncertainties after a year of quarantines and social distancing. In fact, many children may be afraid to leave the safety of their homes.

According to Brandon Duft, child psychiatrist and head of Kaiser Permanente Northwest’s Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, transitions can be particularly challenging for young children, whose language skills and emotions are still developing. “You have to be patient and brave to reenter school and social circles. Social skills are skills like any other; people need to practice them or they can get rusty.”

One way you can help your child transition back to school is to take a proactive approach before the opening day. Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Provide opportunities to build social connections. Set up get-togethers with family and friends. Attend group functions, such as sports events or church groups, as a family. In each case, follow up-to-date local health department recommendations and regulations.
  2. Help them build confidence. Encourage them to focus on their individual strengths and help them set small obtainable goals.
  3. Reminding them to see all the positives: “Aside from learning new things and participating in extracurricular activities, there is a lot that is good about school. For starters, there’s the swag—fun new school supplies and clothes. There are also friends, teachers and staff members they haven’t seen in a while. Remind your kids what they can look forward to about school, such as time with friends, the playground, gym class, art class or visits to the library.”
  4. Take care of yourself so you help your child through this stressful time. When possible, eat nutritious foods, move regularly and get enough sleep.

Overall, let your child/ren know that you understand their anxieties. Listen to their concerns and hug them often. And when the first day of school rolls around, celebrate. Have a favorite food for breakfast, or, tuck a handmade pop up card into their backpack as they head out the door so they can know you are thinking of them during the day.

Finally, remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Transitions take time and returning to “normal” will not happen overnight.

DBRL has numerous back to school books and other resources. To start you off, here are some books that were published during 2020.

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