As parents, educators, and students prepare for and begin the 2021-2022 school year, the normal back to school concerns are running into new unknowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic leaving children and adults more worried than usual. The unpredictability of this challenging situation reminds us that while we cannot control some things right now, there are strategies to alleviate stress and bolster resilience in all of us.
- Communicate: Talk to children, parents and educators about what to expect. This includes proactive strategies for keeping everyone healthy. Are masks required? Is physical distancing going to be enforced? Will there be modified schedules or changes to specials, lunch and recess time? If there are concerns, brainstorm ways to manage them. For example, some children and adults still have difficulties keeping their masks on all day or have an increased fear of getting sick.
- Routines: Create and practice routines as they offer predictability. At any age, when we know what we can expect, our stress lessens. A routine is enhanced when it is meaningful and interactive. This can be accomplished by adding music to the morning drive, using a special greeting when students enter your classroom or emailing a newsletter to caregivers each week that highlights positive things happening in your classroom or building.
- Stress management: Caregivers and educators are the biggest models for children. It is fine to admit to being worried as that normalizes feelings associated with difficult times. Showing children how you manage stress though the use of strategies such as taking some deep breaths, a quick walk or getting a drink of water to reset teaches them that we all have uncomfortable feelings from time to time and finding ways to manage them is the main goal. Adults can even invite kids to join them.