Tips for preparing your family to better deal with the anxiety, stress as school starts | The Rebound Tampa Bay

Posted at 10:26 AM, Aug 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-12 18:33:56-04

There's a great deal of anxiety for parents and kids in going back to school, especially with COVID-19 cases still on the rise.

Whether your child physically enters a classroom or learns online at home, how do you and your child handle the extra stress?

"Nothing is definite, and I think what we really need to remember is we're teaching kids to be flexible," said Psychotherapist Dr. Annette Nunez.
Nunez says parents need to be honest with kids about this virus while keeping their anxiety in check.

"Children pick up non-verbals of adults all the time. So if you're highly stressed and anxious, your child is going to pick up on that, and they're going to feel stressed and anxious themselves," she explained.

Nunez suggests having your child write a list of pros and cons about going back to school and making the decision together as the school year is upon us.

"Children who have a say-so in it, it makes them feel validated, and it makes them feel that they, too, have a choice in what their school year's going to look like for 2021," Nunez said.

If you're e-learning at home, your child might feel like they're missing out on socializing with friends. Nunez says it's essential to explain the reality of what school will look like with new restrictions in place.

"A lot of schools are talking about not having recess, keeping them in the same cohorts, where they're not going to be socializing with their peers," she said.

Also, setting up their own classroom at home with new things can help.

"Something that makes them excited, like I have a new desk. I have a new chair. I have new posters. I have new supplies, so that way, it's like a new normal. It really is," she suggested.

If your child is physically attending school, Nunez says to explain the new rules to help ease their anxiety.

"So just teaching them what are the top priorities? It's wearing a mask. It's keeping our hands clean. It's social distancing. It's keeping your desk clean, keeping the materials on your desk clean, and setting new guidelines of what that looks like going into school."

During this pandemic, Nunez recommends teaching your children coping skills at any age.

When they're feeling stressed, help them take deep breaths, go for a walk, or listen to meditation music.

If taking the e-learning route, parents should set up structured playdates via Zoom or Google Meet so that children can stay in contact with their peers.

If physically attending school, Nunez recommends calling your school's social worker, counselor or nurse to let them know your child may need extra attention.

If your young child begins to regress into old behaviors like bed-wetting or tantrums, call your pediatrician right away.

For teens who are struggling, Nunez says to find a mentor, like an older cousin or college student, who they can relate to and talk to.