Local students are heading back to school this week. A new school year can often bring anxiety. And this year more than most. Many school children are entering classrooms for the first time in more than a year. Some have been isolated. Kids may be rusty on their social skills--and wary of jumping back into "regular life," especially when there are new Covid concerns popping up.
Therapist Barbara Blankenbaker put together a helpful list of tips for kids, teachers, and caregivers.
For the children going back to school (actually these could be used by adults too):
Place a photo of your favorite vacation time (with family members, or a sunset or beach) inside your notebook and open it when you start to feel anxious at school.
Carry a pretty rock or crystal that you love and be mindful of how it feels, the color, texture, hold or rub it to soothe your nerves away.
Have a list of affirmations that you can turn to in the back of your notebook that will help calm you like “I am OK, All is fine, I can do this.”
Write positive statements with your favorite pen.
Think about the last silly thing that happened and smile.
Talk to a trusted person about how you feel, using I feel _(angry sad happy mad joyful____ because __(reason)_________________.
Do a drawing with your nondominant hand, have some fun and be silly! Have others try to guess what you drew.
Explore the inside of your classroom from your desk, what do you see, the colors etc, did you notice a quote on the wall that resonates with you or a picture of a place you would like to know more about?
Ask the teacher if you could share what you do to stay calm with the class and they could share what they do to stay calm and the teacher could share her calming techniques with everyone.
The teacher could have a topic of the day such as worry or anxiety and the children could draw and talk about their feelings. Everyone could work together to come up with a solution and offer problem solving.
The teacher could engage the class in projects each day (onelittleproject.com) for the children to enjoy as a calm down project.
The teacher could begin and end each class with a relaxing meditation (app: insight timer) or the teacher could have the class create their own meditation, everyone contributes a sentence. (this would be super fun)
There may be children who do not understand COVID and the teacher could answer their questions or have everyone drop a question in the jar and see where the fear may be and then have a guest speaker from the health dept answer the questions.
Encourage children and discuss school as a safe place for them to return to and to learn.
Have the children be open about their fears and worries. There may be fear of leaving home which has been a safe haven for so long.
Limit what the children hear on the news and if they do be prepared to explain what they heard about COVID. Ensure that the children know basics and precautions without fear.
Reassurance is key for a child who has had to be cautious for over 1 year.
We also have this downloadable workbook to help younger children deal with big emotions: