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How do you know if your child has back to school anxiety?
Everyone processes anxiety differently, so there are a variety of warning signs to look out for. Back to school anxiety can take different forms including, sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, irritability, fatigue, frequent worries and intrusive thoughts, muscle tension and frequent headaches or stomach aches.
We know that many parents are worried about how their tamariki will handle a return to school. To help make your whānau’s transition back to school as painless as possible, here are our top 6 tips.
The more you plan ahead as a whānau, the less worried your tamariki will be about returning to school. When your school sends notification of Covid-19 safety measures, review them with your child so there will be no surprises on the first day back.
Work with your tamariki to put back up plans in place in case something unexpected happens. E.g., pack an extra face mask in case they lose their one and run through what they can do if they are feeling unsure or overwhelmed.
Find a calm time to talk
Don’t tackle the subject of going back to school when you’re rushed for time or your child is already upset. Put aside time with no distractions or time pressures so you can talk through and address any specific worries your tamariki has.
You can also use this time to remind your tamariki about the positives of returning to school. Talk through what they are looking forward to and what they enjoy most about school.
Give yourself extra time in the mornings
This is really important for the first few days back. We’ve all gotten used to later starts and no travel time. It’ll take a while for your whanau to get used waking up early and getting to school on time.
Ask your child what you can do to help ease the transition back to school e.g., walking them to the gate, so you can factor this into your mornings. And lastly, make sure you also add in time to deal with last-minute worries or tantrums.
Like any big transition, returning to school will its ups and downs. Life with Covid-19 is constantly evolving so you need to be as flexible and adaptable as possible. It’s highly likely that it will take time for school life to settle down into a new normal. If you have concerns, stay in touch with your tamariki’s teacher or a school representative like a counsellor to work out the best way to support your child through the transition.
Adjust your expectations
This time around, students and teachers and heading back to school while there are still high numbers of active Covid-19 cases in the community. School will not be the same as it was before – your tamariki will need to adjust to being around large groups of people, social distancing and for older students wearing masks all day.
Don’t expect everything (including grades and friendships) to automatically go back to the way it was pre-lockdown.
Check in with your tamariki regularly
Be proactive about checking in on your kid’s mental health, even if they haven’t had issues in the past. We know that depression and anxiety rates among young people have been soaring as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns. At Kidz Therapy, we have been fielding many enquiries from parents concerned about their children.
Keep an eye out for signs of distress and take the time to check in everyday to see how their day went and if you can help them resolve any unexpected difficulties.
One of the best things you can do for your child in times of change is be available and predictable. Your tamariki needs stability in times of change and with everything else in flux, you could be the only part of their lives that feels consistent.