Managing Back to School Stress During A Pandemic

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Stressed out teen

The back to school season has always been a mixed bag for parents and kids, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, these challenges can seem amplified. Are you and your family ready for Back-to-School: Pandemic? Child psychologists in Littleton share their top tips for managing stress and getting the school year off to a good start!

Tip #1: Tackle the Uncertainties

One of the biggest challenges facing children and teenagers in Colorado as they consider starting school again is what that schooling is going to look like! Will your study be in-class part-time? 100% online? A hybrid model? If you answered “yes” to any of these, you’re already a step ahead. Unfortunately, many school districts have released conflicting information, and some of the future remains up in the air. This can be frustrating for anyone, but especially for children with anxiety, learning challenges, or those on the autism spectrum. Help your child by addressing as many uncertainties as possible. This may include sharing updates from the school with older children and teens, or could be limited to reassurance for younger kids, such as “you will go to school or learn at home every day from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., and do homework or read a book for one hour every night.” Try and draw on routines and schedules that have worked well in the past. Some parents are choosing 100% online schooling during the pandemic to eliminate the runaround, hassle, and anxiety of all the changes.

Tip #2: Recover the Routine

If your child’s routine went out the window in a cloud of disinfectant, or if summers are always a “free-for-all” anyway, you’ll want to reconnect with your routine. In addition to the “big” uncertainties in life, most people do best with structure and routines that add predictability. This is the time to start bringing back reasonable bedtimes, limits on gaming or non-school screen time, and make sure meals, fun, and rest are a part of the everyday!

Tip #3: Explore Fears and Expectations

Kids are all over the board with their feelings on the pandemic. While some seem unfazed, others are expressing anxiety, clinging, and disruptive behavior. Children and teens with health anxiety are more likely to be stressed during these times, and disruptions to intensive behavioral therapies and supportive tutoring have been a challenge for special needs students since the end of the last school year. Talk with your child about what she is worried about, and why. Open discussions about your experiences and provide appropriate reassurance. If the concerns seem to go beyond typical childhood worries, contact a child or teenage psychologist to help your child build coping skills or to assess for more than situational challenges.

Tip #4: Model Flexibility

We’ve all been asked to be flexible since the start of the pandemic, and this trend will only continue. Likewise, we must find ways to help children and teens be flexible during this time. As parents, you’re being watched closely! Remember, your feelings influence your children, so if they see that you are constantly rigid, frustrated, or anxious about the situation, they are likely to feel similarly. Share your frustrations and feelings, and encourage your child to do the same, but always show how you can adapt and be flexible. You can help them build the same strong skills needed to adapt to any challenges life throws at them.

The 2020 school year is likely to be filled with challenges for our children. Social skills, academic skills, and emotional regulation skills have been disrupted for months in addition to the challenging status of the world. If you feel like you or your child are having a harder time than other families, or if your child is refusing school or experiencing significant setbacks, call a Littleton child psychologist to help rebuild skills.

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