It’s a brand new school year and families all over the country are getting ready for it — buying pencils and notebooks, new lunchboxes and masks for the little ones who still can’t get vaccinated.
Back to school time is always hectic, but this school year may be even more stressful as some kids go back on campus for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The normal stresses of joining a new classroom and learning new things will be increased by the changes brought on in response to the pandemic.
Whether kids are still doing distance learning or gearing up to get back to class, first-day jitters are common. For kids who struggle with mental health disorders, back to school time can be even more difficult as they learn to navigate new environments.
Help is Here has gathered a few tips and tricks to help ease the transition back to school.
Set up a routine
Summer is when many families let go of tight schedules in favor of relaxing or taking a vacation. But getting familiar with a routine will make back to school time go smoother. Also, for kids who struggle with anxiety, knowing what to expect is incredibly useful to help them manage nervousness.
Start setting up a bedtime and morning schedule a few weeks before school starts. Aim to go to bed a few minutes earlier every day before the start of school, so kids can get used to the routine and wake up refreshed.
Prepare ahead of time
Make sure doctor appointments are up to date in the weeks before school starts. Get school supplies ready and even pack up a backpack to have on hand. Practicing the routine of a normal school day — having breakfast, packing up the car, and heading to campus — about a week before school starts can help kids know what to expect before the school year starts.
Learn coping techniques
The start of the school year is a great time for kids to learn about different coping and relaxation methods that can help them get through first-day jitters and beyond.
Work on learning breathing exercises, meditation, or grounding techniques for anxiety and nervousness. These are tools kids can take with them anywhere and can greatly help with any situation that may arise as they head back to class.
Keep up with social connections as much as kids can. Having this support is incredibly valuable as kids make new connections at school, both with their teachers and with other kids.
It’s also important to stay connected with school staff, particularly teachers, who get to know kids on an entirely new level. Teachers are one of the greatest sources of knowledge when it comes to identifying any problems that might come up, from learning disorders to new achievements.
Keep the conversation going
Most kids just want to be heard, whether they’re doing great in school or struggling. Make time to talk to kids —and listen — about anything that might be going on as the school year starts.
Topics of conversation may include COVID-19 protocols at their school, such as wearing masks or social distancing, and what it’s like to return to school after distance learning. Make sure kids know they can talk about whatever is concerning them and how it makes them feel.
Our Help is Here campaign is dedicated to connecting High Desert youth to valuable mental health resources and services. Check out our Mental Health Directory to find national, state, and local resources.
For additional youth behavioral health resources, visit work2bewell.org