HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) – If you are feeling stressed out and anxious right now as you prepare for the new school year, your children probably are too.
Michele Tryon, a parent educator at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters, has been working with parents for three decades. She tells 10 On Your Side, even though our current situation is unprecedented, there are some tried and true parenting tips that can help guide us.
For starters, never dismiss your child’s feelings.
“We don’t want to pretend they’re not having any sadness or confusion or frustration about what’s happening. We honor that and then we’re optimistic,” Tryon said. “So if they have concerns we’re not going to say ‘oh don’t worry about that, everything’s going to be fine, because that’s dismissive; that’s not taking their concerns seriously.”
Find out what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling, then make a plan to help the children feel better. Tryon suggests giving them some simple ways to take back their own power. “It sounds kind of silly, but we can say ‘what do you want an apple or a banana?’ so they get to make some choices and use their power in that way.”
If they’re going to a school building, remind them of ways they can take control of their health by washing their hands and wearing a mask. If they’re staying home to learn, give them choices such as which subject to work on first, math or spelling. Also, Tryon insists you must take lots of brain breaks.
“Give them a choice about that, do you want to do jumping jacks or do you want to stand up and wiggle and dance? What would you like to do to wake your brain up and then we can sit down and get started again.”
Your littlest learners may need breaks every 15 minutes. Older students who struggle to focus, especially on subjects they don’t like, may actually benefit from deadline pressure. Set a timer and give them 15 minutes to complete a worksheet before they can take a break.
Parents, make sure you take breaks too and have a good support system. Call a friend or relative even if it’s just to vent.
Tryon advises you use community resources like CHKD’s free parenting webinars for more tips and support.
“And I don’t want parents to feel guilty. There’s no room for guilt in any of this; really we’re doing the best that we can.”
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