Back to School: 6 Tips for Helping Kids Adapt to Change

2020 has been one of uncertainty and change and soon, it will be time for our kids to start a new school year. Some are preparing to go back in-person, getting ready for a new social setting of staying six-feet apart, wearing masks and washing hands after being homebound for months, and some are preparing to head back online, away from friends, teachers and the structure they’ve known since the first day of kindergarten. We, as parents and guardians, want to do everything we can to help them through this, even when we’re struggling ourselves.

Change is hard for all of us. Many of us, including children, hoped this would be over by now, and the months of uncertainty and isolation, adjusting to new time-frames, orders and recommendations, may be taking their toll. We want to have some sense of control over our lives, and some confidence when it comes to our futures, near or far. In this sense, we’re dealing with a loss that’s challenging to acknowledge and cope with. 

Luckily, there are a few ways we can help our kids through this time, and perhaps we can apply these tips on our own, as well. Here’s a few things to keep in mind as we begin a new semester:

  1. Engage in open and honest conversation with kids about how they’re feeling. They’re going to have thoughts and feelings about the new school year, whether it’s anxiety about going back in-person or concern about keeping up with online coursework. Maybe this isn’t how they wanted to begin their one-and-only senior year—acknowledge, too, that this is a loss, and it’s okay to grieve for it.
  2. Establish a daily routine. Whatever the new school year will look like, the more you can incorporate changes into your routine, the easier it will be to adapt to them. Create time-blocks for at-home learning, or familiarize your children with what to expect each day at school by incorporating new things, like timed hand-washing, at home. Kids thrive off of structure.
  3. Practice flexibility and patience. Even if we agree to what a routine might look like, things will still come up, and most days won’t look perfect. As we continue to deal with frequent changes, we should keep working on these virtues.
  4. Model good behavior and coping skills for kids; they look up to us. Show them how to be open with your feelings, how to be flexible, how to maintain a schedule. Be a good role model (and remember that practice makes us better).
  5. Encourage asking for help and staying connected socially. There are still ways to stay in touch with peers and ask for help from teachers. Virtual learning has that advantage, and many similar programs allow us to maintain contact with family and friends outside of school. 
  6. Finally, it may help to keep in mind that what we are experiencing is temporary. We should do what we can to adapt and make the best of it in the meantime, but remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and we will get through this together. 

If you, your child or a loved one could use additional support, reach out to us confidentially by tapping here.

Dana Levy is a Licensed Master Social Worker serving adolescents, young adults and adults at Ethos’ The Lovett Center. She is passionate about creating a safe space for clients to process challenges in their lives with the intention of developing a deeper understanding of themselves. Dana takes a collaborative approach to therapy and utilizes various treatment modalities in order to meet each individual’s unique needs.

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