It has been approximately two years since most children attended schools offline. While these two years have been a unique experience for children engaged in online classes, the absence of a physical classroom setup is bound to make it difficult for them to get back to school.
As parents, you might think this is just a temporary issue and nothing to worry about, but as necessary it is to cater to your mental health, it is equally essential to look after the emotions your child experiences. Getting back to a school atmosphere in person can be extremely challenging for a child after such a long gap.
Stepping back in the school corridors can be overwhelming for children who have only been around their families during the lockdown. However, they need to overcome their hesitation and anxiety. And it is you who can help them through the process. For toddlers or young children, it is essential to rebuild their immunity to thrive in a school setting with a lot of exposure.
In this article, we aim to give you some pointers on relieving your child’s anxiety as they return to a traditional classroom experience.
Discuss their previous experiences
If your child has been to school in the past, you can use their memories to give them a headstart on what’s next for them. Be it a brief encounter as a new student or a few months at school, children take time to process the change and get accustomed to their new surroundings. While getting used to the school environment, they go through a comprehensive process of observing things and the people around them. As they see new faces and assess them, they get comfortable around them and overcome their fear and insecurity of staying away from their parents and home.
As children get back to school, they will have to go through the entire transition of getting comfortable with their new surroundings all over again. You can help them overcome the anxiety they might face by discussing their previous experience at school. You can talk about the activities they previously engaged in, the games they played at school, flip through their school photographs, and talk about their events and memories from school. Giving them a recap by brushing up their memory of their school life and the previous routine can help them get ready for stepping right back into it.
Introduce them to the staff beforehand.
Once your child gets familiar with their teachers and support staff, they find it easy to blend in their daycare or school setting and learn without any fear. But after visiting a place filled with new faces visible in real life, your child might experience some anxiety. This anxiety is a product of their uncertainty around strangers.
To help your child have a comfortable and smooth back-to-school experience, you can request their teachers to have a brief introduction session virtually. This session can be scheduled every day for a few minutes. This will allow the students to get familiar with the staff. They are likely to face fewer problems getting comfortable with them as they meet them in person, and if the school or daycare staff is personable, your child will probably be excited to meet them.
Talk to them after they return from school.
After a considerably long gap, getting back to school is not easy for students. They might have uncomfortable experiences or thoughts that will hinder their learning and enjoyment at school. Just the way you lend your ears to your friend who has recently gone through something, it is time to let your child confide in you.
As your child communicates to you, let them know that you value their feelings, and they are free to discuss anything and everything they want. Do not act impatient and establish a secure space where your child can vent their anxiety, express their fears and share their thoughts about school.
Make it a point to add family conversations to your routine. While your child talks to you about their day, try to fit in questions and suggestions that will help them feel better. Another great option is to tell them about your day, problems, and experiences. It makes them understand that it is okay to share their vulnerabilities with their family. Transparent communication with children is an excellent way of bonding. It will help your child handle their anxiety and other feelings in a healthy manner.
Talk to their teachers.
As your child shares their feelings, doubts, concerns, and problems with you, staying attentive and looking for solutions is essential. While your child might get insecure to know about your plans to converse with their teacher, you need to calculate what’s best for them and what will not damage their trust in you. Arrange for a call with their teacher and inform them about the problems your child is facing.
Your child’s class teacher is their school parent, and they need to be mindful of what’s going on with their student. You can even give your inputs about the situation and find out how the teacher is planning to help your child. They might come up with activities, discussions, and other methods to relieve your child from their anxiety as they return to school.
Most working adults have opted for remote work options due to their hesitation of going back to their office and working with people face-to-face. When adults face anxiety and stress in reviving their offline work, it is justified for students to have similar experiences as they return to the school corridors. As parents, you need to address these feelings and help them through their phase of insecurity and fear.
If you feel that it is getting tough for you to understand your child’s challenges or to help them, it is always advisable to reach out for professional help. The key is to stay miles away from neglect and actively participate in your child’s life as they encounter their anxiety and distress on socializing with the outside world – a world that was enclosed in a screen for them for almost two years.
Sandra Chiu works as Director at LadyBug & Friends Daycare and Preschool