26 Jul Back to School 2021- Preparation, Support, and Yes, Even FUN!
The beginning of a new school year is filled with hopes and possibilities, fears and challenges. This year it is important to recognize that not every family shares the same feelings about returning to school in person. Many families are enthusiastic and welcome full-time reconnection for their children. While parents realize the value of education, some may feel anxious, or concerned about potential risks. Back to school does not necessarily mean back to normal.
The pandemic has required all of us to adapt quickly and the past year and half has been fraught with uncertainty. Last year many families tackled the unfamiliar task of dealing with virtual learning. This year families will need to change gears once again as students return to in person learning. Uncertainty is typical for any new school year but navigating this level of change could feel overwhelming, it helps to have guidance not only for unfamiliar circumstances but for the typical challenges students and families face at the beginning of each school year.
Many students will not yet be eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine before the new school year begins. Read the American Pediatric Association’s and the CDC’s recommendations to ensure students and staff can stay healthy and physically together in school during the pandemic.
Back to school time leads to transitions which affect the whole family. There will likely be changes to family and home routines, new teachers, new classrooms, and maybe even a new school. Summer break can be a great time for your family to relax and spend time together however some kids (and adults!) can struggle with the return to routine. The next few weeks will be busy as you and your child prepare to take on another school year. Kentucky students, parents and caregivers are preparing to get school supplies together, health forms filled out, after-school care figured out, and setting routines for the new school year. Routines for meals, homework, bedtime, and after school establish expectations and help lessen anxiety.
Establishing back to school routines early could lessen some of the “back to school jitters” but may not alleviate ALL of them. I am remembering a young student (ahem!) who was crippled with fear after each and every milk break. The teacher would place a milk carton at each student’s desk. Thirsty students would immediately chug down the milk, run to the trash can and promptly throw it away. The receptacle was located directly beside a very intimidating large desk at the front of the classroom where the teacher sat overseeing the class. This particular student preferred to slowly sip the milk. Instead of taking the dreaded long walk to the trash can, past all of the other students (who seemed to have finished their milk hours ago), this student stuffed their desk with milk cartons for nearly a month! Needless to say, before long, the classroom reeked of spoiled milk. What resulted was a parent teacher conference to address the milk break “situation”. Looking back this former student can laugh about the incident however, the fear was real and the resulting behavior had significant consequences. If this student was too frightened to throw away a milk carton, what else did they avoid due to fear? Eating their lunch? Raising their hand? Answering questions? Speaking up if they didn’t understand something?
This story demonstrates the fear and anxiety students may experience. Parents can help buffer these stressful situations.
∗Talk to your child:
∗ Point out the positive aspects of starting school to create excitement about the first day of class.
∗ Visit your child’s school to help your child learn their way around.
∗ Ask how your child is feeling about starting school this year and if there is something that they hope to learn.
∗ Share your back to school experiences with your children. (It may motivate them to share with you.)
∗ Strategize solutions if your child shares concerns about the new school year.
∗ Educate yourself about After-School Restraint Collapse.
∗ Build a parent-teacher relationship with open communication.
∗ Attend back to school events hosted by your child’s school.
∗ Check out the school’s website before school starts to access helpful resources and information. (There are usually pictures to familiarize students with the school. It might be fun for students to spot pictures of teachers and classmates.)
If the “summer-ending-and-school-starting” ritual makes you anxious, then participate in Back to School Month this August — an event that helps parents, students, and teachers prepare for the new academic year. Celebrated since the 1960s, Back to School Month will motivate you to start your back-to-school shopping and get you excited overall. So put away the beach bag and pick up the backpack, because it’s time for Back to School Month events —and we want you to get an “A” for participation.
Photo by Mary Taylor from Pexels