Calming Those New-School-Year Jitters
As exciting as it might be to begin a new school year, students and parents alike likely will be suffering some anxiety as well, especially with COVID-19 safeguards still a concern.
“Although parents may rightfully be nervous, care must be taken so that parental stress isn’t adding to a child’s own hesitation and reluctance,” said Laura Hubbs-Tait, Oklahoma State University Extension parenting specialist. “A new school year – especially if the child is attending a new school or has been exposed to stories about the pandemic – can be intimidating and more than a little overwhelming.”
OSU Extension recommends that parents project the right attitude to help set the tone for the upcoming year. Parents in need of reassurance should reach out to friends, other family members or even a professional counselor to talk through any issues.
Displaying the right attitude can include offering general encouragement, speaking positively about classes and teachers, encouraging children to get involved with extracurricular activities and, in the case of pandemic safeguards, speaking calmly and accurately about the need to practice pandemic protocols – and to explain to kids that the school will likely do the same.
Establishing a consistent routine can help remedy new-school-year jitters and instill positive habits. Examples of helpful routines include beginning the day with a healthy breakfast, setting aside a regular time for homework, establishing an appropriate bedtime and even identifying specific times for watching television or other family activities.
“School-age children should be well used to bedtime routines such as bathing, brushing teeth and reading a story,” Hubbs-Tait said.
Regular bedtime and wake-up times should allow children to get sufficient sleep under American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines:
- Children ages 1 to 2: 11 hours to 14 hours per day, including naps.
- Ages 3 to 5: 10 hours to 13 hours per day, including naps.
- Ages 6 to 12: 9 hours to 12 hours per day.
- Teens: 8 hours to 10 hours per day.
Parents should regularly talk with their children about assignments, grades and what’s happening in the classroom. Take the time to share the day’s events and activities with each other, Hubbs-Tait said. Dinnertime is a popular setting for many families to share their days and support one another.
“Listen attentively as children talk about what they’re learning, their friends and classmates, any problems that they are facing and how they’re feeling about all of these, without seeming forced,” Hubbs-Tait said. “Most children will be able to determine if a parent is interested and appreciate the caring attitude.”
Given the pandemic shutdown, children have been put more at risk of falling behind in their studies. Regular and frequent communication can help identify potential areas of concern and allow parent, child and teacher to hopefully correct any issues as quickly and easily as possible, Hubbs-Tait said.