How to Ease Your Teenage Kids Back to School Following the COVID-19 Pandemic
The pandemic has had a devastating effect on the mental health of the nation, and kids have been just as affected, if not more so, than adults. If your teenager will be imminently heading back to school for the first time since lockdown, then they may have some anxieties about being in the classroom again.
It’s not unusual at all for older kids to struggle with the thought of the classroom environment and being surrounded by fellow students and teachers. Having gotten used to home-working, fears and uncertainties around the rigors and logistics of getting used to a more structured academic routine may be taking their toll, too.
If your teen needs some support in terms of going back to school following the pandemic, then you’re not alone. Use the tips below to help ease their anxieties, and have a successful start to the new term.
If your teenage child is struggling, then speaking to a counselor or therapist about how they’re feeling may be a great way to help them find a way forward. For kids who may not feel comfortable about visiting a therapist face-to-face, there is now a range of online therapy services in which your teen can have online or phone meetings with their counselor. Many of these services accept health insurance but check this before signing up if necessary.
A therapist will be able to work with your teen to explore their feelings and fears and find ways to manage these things while supporting them in getting back to ‘normal.’
Get Used to Crowds Again
Many people have struggled with anxieties about being in crowds again as a direct impact of covid-19 – your teen may be experiencing such worries, too, when it comes to going back into the classroom.
To help overcome this fear, gradually build up exposure so that, by the time school starts again, they’re used to being surrounded by people. You could start by taking them to visit a location that’s often fairly crowded, such as a mall or a busy store – but aim to stay for just ten minutes. Go again a day or so later, but this time stay for twenty minutes. Build up tolerance in this way until your child is comfortable in the space.
It’s likely that, as a family, you developed your own structures and routines to cope with the pandemic. Getting back into the rhythm of school life may be causing your teen anxiety, but there are some steps you can take to help them with this.
In good time before term starts, begin to get a school-friendly routine in place. If your teen is younger and bedtime became later over the pandemic, then begin gradually moving it to an earlier time – moving it forward by just ten minutes a night is often the most pain-free option!
Again, for younger teens, begin to impose some screen time limits again and set aside an hour a day for study time so that by the time they head back to school, a new regime won’t be such a shock.
Create a Calm Home Environment
With a teenager in the house, this may seem impossible to achieve. However, taking steps to create as relaxed an environment at home as possible can make a big difference in your child’s anxiety levels.
Promote calm by involving your teens in family decisions around structures and routines and in deciding what to do together on the weekend, for example. Eat together as a family, and have a screen-free policy during these times.
Finding things that you all enjoy doing together is a great way to relax and have fun as a family, and it can help your teen to maintain a positive outlook. Getting outside in nature is particularly beneficial for mental health, so consider a family hike, a boat trip, or a picnic at the park.
Helping your teen to develop their own coping mechanisms in terms of their worries and fears is a great way of building their resilience – which will aid them in overcoming a range of future challenges.
Do this by encouraging your child to find their own ways of coping with the problem – with your help, of course, if they need it. As part of this approach, they may surprise you with the innovative solutions they come up with, which could also reveal the root of their fears.
For example, if your teen is fearful of going back to school and you’re unsure why, and, when asked the best way to deal with this, they suggest buying sanitizing wipes for use on the school dining tables before eating lunch, you’ll know that hygiene anxieties are causing the issue.
A Happy, Healthy Start to the New School Year
For many teens, returning to school after the holidays is stressful, even without the impact of the pandemic. Use the tips above to help identify what’s bothering your child and how to resolve it so that they can enjoy a happy start to the new school year, and put the privations of the pandemic well and truly behind them.