Published on 30th August, 2021
Coping with back-to-school challenges
“My child seems to enjoy school. However he throws tantrums when he needs to go back after a long break!” Does this statement resonate with you?
Everyone loves a long break away from school or work. Vacations and holidays provide us reprieve from all the stress we may experience. The longer the break from reality, the tougher it is for us to return to our daily lives. After experiencing a fun change in their routine, children and young people find it difficult to switch back to their old routine. These are some common concerns that children and young people may have:
School aged children
Restrictions due to circuit breaker brings about a new set of factors that affect their return to school:
Lack of perceived control and predictability: Unlike holidays which are planned with an exciting itinerary to look forward to, restrictions during CB are imposed onto us. Not being in control of events and the unpredictability of the situation with covid-19 can induce a sense of fear or anxiety in children and young people.
Fear of the unknown: Having little awareness of the situation with covid-19 can bring about worries about them or their loved ones getting infected or even dying. These worries may exacerbate when the time to return to school comes.
Grief and loss: Loss of any kind begets sense of grief and bereavement in us. In younger children, these may be reflected as the child being sad or withdrawn. Older children or adolescents may seem more irritable or angry.
Apprehension due to loss of connection: This can happen even during normal school holidays. When there is a prolonged period of time where they have not interacted with their classmates or teachers, they may have a sense of loss of connection. This may lead to them having worries about losing friends.
Challenging experiences at home: This may motivate children and young people to go back to school to avoid challenges at home. Though they may be in school, they may not be able to focus or may display challenging behaviours that may seem unexplained.
Signs of anxiety in returning to school
How can we help?
Acknowledge their concerns. Reassure them that it is normal to have worries about going back to school after a long break or when the situation is volatile as such. You can share your own worries and how you would be going about working on it.
Keeping a worry box or worry tree. When sharing concerns with each other, you can draw or write your concerns and put them in a box where it is “locked away”. Allow them to do the same where they can mentally let go of their worries.
Encourage them to look for and recognize the positives. Along with putting your worries away, you can also share the pros of being able to return to school.
Create plans that you can put into place to allay or manage their worries when the time for school to reopen comes. It could also involve teachers in school. Find out what are some strategies that helps them manage their anxiety and practice them regularly.
Constructing and sticking to routines. Plan out their remaining days to mimic their school routine. This increases predictability and provides them a sense of security.
Preparing for the day. Talk to them about school and what a typical day in school would like when they return. Create opportunities for them to interact with classmates or teachers. It may be in the form of Zoom dates or WhatsApp calls that allow them to catch-up. You could even encourage them to arrange their calls with their classmates during their allotted class timing.
Praise and reward. Initial days of returning to school may be filled with unexpected challenges. They may struggle to finish their day in school. However, provide them with encouragement and acknowledge even their smallest achievements. Offer reassurance that this is normal and that you appreciate their efforts. This motivates them to keep going.
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