Preparing Children to Return to School – An Emotional Approach
As back to school plans continue to change almost daily, children’s emotions will remain unpredictable. One day they are thinking about returning to their friends and teachers at school, and the next, they are told they won't be returning for another few months. Because of this, our children's emotional needs have never been greater. And while the uncertainty of everything is still present, what we do know is that we must prepare our children, emotionally, for a return to school, whenever that may be.
For those that return to a brick and mortar school, they may experience some separation anxiety from their parents. For those who go back to digital learning, they may continue to be unmotivated and feel depressed. To help children adapt to the constant shifts, parents must stay attuned and connected to their children’s ever-changing feelings and implement ways to support them and reassure them.
1) Create Dialog: Strong emotions have been running high for everyone during the pandemic, and managing these tough feelings is a challenge for children. To help them, parents need to create an open dialogue that allows children a safe place to identify and express their emotions. When parents understand that sadness and fear are normal feelings in relation to our current situation, allowing children to talk about them will bring about a more proactive approach to managing them. And since children take emotional cues from their parents, being mindful of your reactions and talking about your feelings will help children work through their emotions more constructively.
2) Excite and Empower: As these conversations help work through the intimidating feelings of the unknown, the next step is to build excitement and empower them. By assisting them in embracing a new regimen and having a say in planning for it, children will start to develop confidence again. Allowing them to be part of the process, such as setting up a workstation for themselves at home or creating a fun, colorful schedule for their return to school, will get them excited. Keeping a positive tone is key in helping children transition more confidently.
3) Provide Support: To keep children on a productive path with a positive outlook, they must have a network of support from their teachers, counselors, and other adults. Adults must be even more observant now and watch for strong emotions and disruptive behaviors. Addressing these things with a flexible mindset while utilizing referrals systems will create a better approach to resolving issues. By ensuring that teachers, staff, and other resources are prepared for these things, children will reap the benefits of a stronger support system.
Our SKILLZ program at WTK implements an innovative child development approach that focuses on the whole child, methods used to support a child in all areas while also providing resources for parents. Instructors are educated and trained to provide classes that meet the needs of children, on age-specific levels, in a way that keeps them motivated, confident, and safe. This methodology fosters a positive outlook, which leads to more efficient coping skills. In addition, parents can utilize the Parent SKILLZ curriculum to help them meet their children's emotional needs.
Over the past few months, children have faced a considerable amount of disturbance in their lives. Much of this has led to feelings of sadness, anxiety, and fear. As they face the day-to-day changes of how they will return to school, children are on even more of an emotional roller coaster. But no matter how school starts for them, children's emotional well-being needs to be at the forefront of everyone’s minds to help children start the new school year with success.
In our next blog, we will discuss how to prepare your child “socially” for the new school year.