How To Talk to Your Child About Returning to School

With all the changes resulting form Covid-19, and continued uncertainty in the US, both parents and children are experiencing a variety of emotions. It is important to provide a space for your child to explore and discuss how they are feeling. By doing so, we can help them find solutions to problems they are anticipating and help them regulate their emotions.  

Listen for and acknowledge how your child is feeling.

By listening and looking for cues from our kids in what they are experiencing it gives us a starting point to say “hey are you frustrated/sad/worried/annoyed that school is starting up again?” Acceptance and a non-judgmental attitude will go a long way in getting your kid to not only share how they are feeling but to continue to open up about their concerns as time goes on. Monitor your body-language, tone of voice and facial expressions to ensure you are coming across as accepting, caring and non-judgmental. More important then what we say is how we say it. Kids pick up on those non-verbal cues, just like we do.  

Validate and normalize their perspective and experience.

Put yourself in their shoes and empathize with what they are going through. For example: “ I understand you are scared to see your friends again, I was nervous when I had to go back to work too.” “You feel worried about returning to school. It has been a lot of changes this month and you do not know what to expect.” “I can see you are super excited to go back to school and see all your friends!” “It’s hard adjusting to early wake-up times again, I hate mornings too. What are some things you are looking forward to in school that you missed?”  

Be curious about what this experience means to them.

If you are not sure how your child is feeling or what they may be thinking some curious questions may help you to gauge where they are at. Examples include: “How are you feeling about going to back school?” “I wonder if you may be feeling nervous about going back to school?” “What are you looking forward to most about going back to school?” “Are you concerned about changes to your school routine?  

Be encouraging and foster hope.

If your child is experiencing not-so-pleasant emotions try to help them problem solve, plan or find the silver lining. “I know you may be worried about taking the bus again, maybe we can see if you can sit with (the neighbor, your sibling, etc)” “I know this transition is really tough but it should be nice to see your friends again/get back into the classroom”  

Check-in after the school day is over.

This transition may be difficult for kids that were not expecting it to be difficult. Those that went in excited may feel disheartened by restrictions, those who were anxious may be more anxious because everyone was wearing masks.  Check in with your child to see what they are experiencing.  Examples include: “How was your day today?” “What was it like seeing friends again?” “What did you learn today?” “What did you like about today?” “Is anything worrying you?”

Seek additional support if needed. 

As always, if you need more support contact your school social worker, guidance counselor or contact a local therapist.

One thought on “How To Talk to Your Child About Returning to School

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