McGill Master’s Student and Researcher with Childhood Anxiety and Regulation of Emotions (C.A.R.E) Research Group
September marks the official beginning of a new school year. During “normal” times, going back may be filled with some worries from parents and anxiety from kids. Now, with the pandemic, things are definitely different. Having returned to school, mixed emotions may be on the rise, with a potential combination of anxiety and excitement. What are children and parents facing as they embark on their first month of the new academic year?
Wearing masks in school and other safety measures put forward are things children will need to get used to. But what are some ways that parents can help their children in this new transition? Taking the time to talk about the return gives them the opportunity to process and deal with the changes (Stafford & Supriya, 2020 – Interview with Dr. Montreuil) as well as normalizes any unpleasant feelings they may be experiencing. Moreover, involving your children in the problem-solving process may be a great way to give them some feeling of control, in a situation filled with uncertainties.
In addition to helping our children deal with the anxieties of the new school environment, parents may also require some assistance. How can we, as parents, deal with the anxiety surrounding the return? The possibility of another outbreak? The possibility of another school closure? These are all normal and valid questions and emotions to feel. Psychologist and McGill Professor, Dr. Tina Montreuil, talks about the importance of dealing with our own anxiety before helping our children (mentioned in Galipeau, 2020), as our worries may overpower our ability to help. Once we are able to better accept the new circumstances, we are in better position to offer assistance to our young ones. In times of high anxiety, self-care is an important ingredient for keeping our wellbeing. Trying to take the time for ourselves and finding some activities that give us pleasure and detach us from our caregiver and professional roles, may be an important step. It becomes important to shift our perspective and remind ourselves that there are some things outside of our control (Montreuil & Tilley, 2017); the pandemic is definitely one of them.
Given the new reality in schools, it becomes even more important for parents to check in with their children and teenagers as a way to make sure our young ones are doing well (London CTV-News). In addition, finding the right people in school to communicate with can help parents feel more secure, as it provides the opportunity for open communication with teachers or other school personnel.
Finding something positive in a difficult situation can always help reduce the stress and worrisome thoughts. For instance, the lack of social interactions in the last few months was hard on both children and their parents. The return to school, though not the same, will be an opportunity for children to reconnect with each other and get back to some degree of normality. Of course, it will be important to change some aspects of the interaction, however, children are resilient, and, with positive support from their caregivers, they will aim to adapt.
IT ALWAYS SEEMS IMPOSSIBLE UNTIL IT’S DONE
- Galipeau, S. (2020, April 9). Ados encabanés: et si la cage était dorée? La Presse. https://www.lapresse.ca/societe/2020-04-09/ados-encabanes-et-si-la-cage-etait-doree
- London CTV-News. (2020, August 17). How to deal with children’s anxiety surrounding COVID-19. https://london.ctvnews.ca/video?clipId=2018371&cache=piqndqvkh
- Montreuil, T., & Tilley, M. A. (2017). Healthy minds healthy schools: Strategies and activities for happy and successful learners. Toronto, Canada: Canadian Scholars’ Press.
- Stafford & Supriya. (2020, August 6). How to talk to your kids about mask use, returning to school [Radio broadcast] https://omny.fm/shows/am640-the-morning-show/how-to-talk-to-your-kids-about-the-changes-to-in-c