Helping your kids get back to school

August 18, 2021 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Moms

If returning to school has you or your student feeling a little anxious, you’re not alone.

While most schools are kicking off the year with full-day, five-day-a-week schedules, this year’s return is not like years past. Some students, for example, will be returning to a full in-person schedule for the first time since spring 2020. Many may be returning to school still reeling from the toll COVID-19 had on their family.

And for most, questions linger about what the school year will look like as COVID-19 cases are on the rise locally.

What can you do to help prepare your child for the year ahead? Linden Oaks Manager of Anxiety Services and licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Laura Koehler offers some advice.

“The best thing we can do is let go of expectations and kind of allow time to unfold,” says Dr. Koehler. Admittedly, that can be easier said than done. It’s normal to have expectations. But what you do with them is key.

“Instead of trying to stop having expectations, take time to notice when your mind is trying to come up with expectations,” she says.

So, when your mind starts to wander into "that’s not how it’s supposed to be" or "this is how I thought it would be" territory, take a moment. Recognize your mind is doing what’s normal and then let the thought go and re-focus on a task or what’s in front of you, says Dr. Koehler.

That’s not to say you should ignore any concerns or questions. Your child may have concerns about the crowded hallways during passing periods. Or maybe they are anxious about wearing a face mask. Discuss those concerns and let your child know they can come to you with any questions.

You may also want to share some of your own concerns and how you’ve handled those situations. Dinnertime or car rides to and from activities often provide opportune times to check in and chat. Having those conversations regularly can help identify concerns or worries before they become bigger problems, says Dr. Koehler.

And while COVID-19 may be a source of anxiety, keeping your children informed about what’s happening and why is important.

“You want to keep kids informed, but not make COVID the focus of the year,” she says, adding that parents should be mindful of how they frame their concerns about the school year in front of their children.

While COVID-19 is at the forefront of people’s minds as children return to school this year, don’t lose sight of some of the tried-and-true practices that help students as they return to school:

  • A good night’s sleep rules. If sleep schedules went out the window during the summer, now is the time to re-establish them. A good night’s sleep of at least 8-9 hours a night helps set your child up for success during their school day and promotes good health. Don’t forget to turn off electronics 30 minutes before bedtime. Learn how to get your children to sleep at an appropriate hour.
  • Make mornings count. Allow your student enough time to get ready for the day and start it off with a healthy breakfast. Rushing in the morning starts the day in a frenzy and panic.
  • Minimize screen time. Remote learning schedules last year brought an increase of screen time for children (and adults). Ideally, children should not spend more than 1-2 hours a day on electronic devices. To help curb electronic use, establish device-free times and consider using the device-free time to play a board game, go for a family walk or read a book.

Together, your family can stay healthy and celebrate a healthy return to school.

Explore children’s services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Get support from Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.

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