How to handle back-to-school jitters

How to handle back-to-school jitters

with Caron Irwin, Child Life Specialist and Founder of Roo Family

Heading back to school can be stressful for our kiddos (and for us!) under normal circumstances, never mind all of the unknowns we’re faced with this year.

We asked our friend Caron Irwin, certified Child Life Specialist and Founder of Roo Family, to share her top tips on beating the back-to-school jitters and how best to support your kids through this transition.

1. Establish a “drop off ritual” with your child

This can be something simple you do each day when you say goodbye to your child at school. The reason why you want to do this is it provides a cue to children’s body that now they are transitioning from your care to someone else’s care - in this case, their teacher's. The consistency of this act sets them up for success. 

Caron recommends the children's book The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. It's a wonderful story to enjoy with your child that helps explain what a drop off ritual is, why we do it and helps come up with a unique ritual that you can do with your child.

For more tips on establishing a drop off ritual, check out Caron's video below.


2. Prepare them for the start of school

The school experience has been very different over the last 18 months then what our children are used to, preparation will help remind them what the school environment is like and help create a sense of comfort for them. When children feel prepared, they feel in control, which in turn helps them be more successful. 

Caron recommends:
- Reading books about going back to the classroom, for example Sesame Street's Let's Go to School: point out the pictures to your child, of what a classroom might look like, objects they'll come across, etc. This helps with their comfort level in a classroom setting. What you read about at home will play out in their reality when they're back at school. 
- Visiting their school before the first day: go to their school yard, let them play, run, and explore the area for themselves. Show your children where they will be lining up, what door they will enter in through the morning, where they can find the bathroom - there's no better way to learn then to experience. 


3. Prepare them for school during a pandemic

Masks: have your child practice wearing their mask at home
* Tip: getting your child to practice wearing their mask at home each day while doing something they enjoy helps them build up their comfort level.
* Parents: wear your mask around the house while doing different tasks. This helps normalize wearing a mask again and exposes your child to communicating with others while wearing a mask.

Hand Hygiene: make sure hand washing is apart of your child’s routine
* Tip: have your child practice washing their hands with soap and water, as well as hand sanitizer, so both experiences are familiar.

Social Distancing: practice the act of social distancing at home
* Tip: Make staying 2 meters apart relatable and fun by reminding your child to stay a starfish away!

How can you support your child if they let you know they’re scared or worried about returning to school?

1) Empathize with your child and ensure they know you validate their feelings. Let them know you believe their body is worried/scared/anxious about going back-to-school.

2) Normalize that it is okay to feel worried/scared/anxious, that it's a completely reasonable way to feel. They haven’t been at school for a long time, they haven’t been away from the family - what they are feeling is valid.

3) Come up with a plan with your child to help them get more comfortable. All the suggestions above are a great place to start but be sure to include your child in the planning, this way they feel connected to the journey.