The back-to-school jitters feel especially jittery this year. With safety measures being carried out differently from district to district, county to county, state to state, it just feels like there are so many unknowns.
I know school administrators are working double time to help keep kids safe, but I know when that first bell rings, I will be more anxious than the day I dropped him off at Montessori daycare at 12 weeks old.
My son seems to be handling all the changes in stride, but my daughter – who started a summer camp for the first time at around 18 months – has severe separation anxiety. We finished the last week of a 12 week program and her last week was the first week she didn’t cry when I dropped her off. I never would have imagined this would be so hard, so complicated, but here we are.
I know I’m not the only one dealing with back-to-school jitters and in fact, I looked it up.
According to the Child Mind Institute,
“Children who are heading back to the classroom this fall are facing unusual challenges, and one of them is anxiety about being separated from their families after months of togetherness.”
So what do we do? I don’t have all the answers, but I know what has helped me and the advice I’ve seen to help ease kids back into the school routine this fall after a really unpredictable 18 months.
How to beat the back-to-school jitters in a pandemic:
Get Back Into Routine
This is a good tip whether your kids attend public, private, or homeschool. Getting into a routine with kids helps them recognize patterns and get used to their surroundings. In our house, we’re already setting a strict bath and bedtime as well as starting to curb television and screen time, especially during the week. We’re working in 15-20 minutes of reading time with the big kid and self-play for the little. I can already see a change in their attitude as they’re both getting more sleep and getting into a better rhythm.
Do A Trial Run
Both my kids have meet and greet type events taking place before the first day. For my daughter’s school, they encourage parents and kids both to come along to get familiar with the atmosphere and meet the staff. For my son who attends public school, they’re not permitting parents on campus, which makes me really uneasy, so we’ve done a few drive-bys to get familiar with the area.
In our house we have a saying that well predates the pandemic. “What’s my number one job?” I ask my son. He replies, “To keep me safe.” He bemoaned when I told him he would have to wear masks but when I told him we could pick out some cool new Marvel masks that made him look like Spiderman and a Stormtrooper, he seemed more excited about it. We also picked up a cute new baby Yoda sanitizer for his lunch and went over some good hygiene rules to avoid spreading germs.
Get Outside And Play!
Not only is illness less transmissible outside, it’s also a great mood booster and healthy habit. Over summer, we took advantage of longer days to go on bike rides at night, play catch in the street, or have movie night on the patio. We appreciated the summer sunsets and enjoyed dining al fresco. As it cools down, we will bundle up, light the fire pit, and make use of our flashlights if needed to be sure we get enough fresh air to feed our souls.
Talk It Out
We’re all getting a pretty hot temper in our household. I’ve noticed an uptick in yelling, screaming, and even some name calling during the pandemic. I don’t love it, but I know it’s a symptom of all the stress we’re still enduring. I don’t have great advice here, and I’m sure I’m doing it all wrong, but I have learned that the days when we take deep breaths and ask one another how they’re feeling, are the days we all sleep a little better at night.
Remember To Be Grateful
Someone once told me to start a bedtime routine of asking my kids to tell me one thing they were grateful for that day. She said this routine evolved as her little ones grew into teens and they no longer needed to be tucked in, but they would still come into her room and hug her to tell her something they were grateful for.
I loved that so much, I started it with my kids. Normally, I get answers like, “I’m grateful for candy,” or “I’m grateful for my new toy.” But, every now and then, I get, “I’m grateful you keep me safe,” and all the anxiety in the world seems worth it.
I know I can’t guarantee that no one will get sick or feel some back-to-school jitters, but I can make avoiding it a bit more fun and a little less stressful.
I know when they’re at school, an extension of me is living in this world without my direct supervision and it’s scary. But, I know we will get through this.
My last piece of advice to get you and your family through the back-to-school jitters: Just breathe. Take slow deep breaths. And breathe.