PORTSMOUTH, Va (WAVY) — Even if your child is excited to go back to school, it can be anxiety-inducing for some children.
“Whenever there’s a change in the routine, change in the expectations, that can be difficult for children,” said Certified Child Life Specialist Michelle Tryon, who works at the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters.
Tryon advises two simple things: prepare and process whenever possible. In WAVY News’ online digital discussion Monday, she suggested talking to your child beforehand.
“We know they are going to be wearing masks, we know that maybe there’s going to be some structures up that are separating them from other children. They’re going to be with dots in the cafeteria they can sit on,” she said.
She advises families to talk about these things before going back to in-person learning to prepare the children, then processing the experience by having a discussion about how it went after they get home.
“Before your child leaves in the morning, you might say ‘I know things are going to be different at school. Why don’t you make a list in your head of everything [that] the teachers and the principal and all the people that work there have done to make it safe for you. And then when you get home, tell me all those things,'” she said.
Parents know their children better than anyone, so look for changes in behavior. When children can’t find the words to express their emotions, they often show us with behavior.
Parents, she said, should try to model an optimistic outlook.
“So rather than focus on the negative or ‘We’re worried about you getting sick’ or ‘worried about the germs,’ use the terminology that makes it positive, which is ‘We’re doing everything we can to keep everyone safe,'” she said.
Don’t dismiss their feelings, but don’t tell them everything will fine either. Rather, families should listen, show support, and empower their children..
“‘It’s my job to keep you safe. It’s your teacher’s job to keep you safe. What can you do to keep yourself safe?’ And then that gives it back to them,” she said.
No matter if your child is feeling fear, anxiety, sadness or anger, Tryon said the key is to validate whatever they are feeling rather than trying to talk them out of it.
BELOW: Watch the full Coronavirus Digital Discussion