“I’m aware that schools are reopening but I’m just worried about my daughter’s safety. Plus, she is so used to online classes now. What if she can’t adapt to physical schooling?” – Anxious Q-dees parent.
As parents, we worry about the well-being of our young ones. We want the best for them, from the food they eat to the clothes they wear. COVID-19 still looming among us, it is natural to worry about our children’s safety.
But, what about our children? How do they feel about going back to school?
The trip back to school can be daunting for many preschoolers. Previously, it meant less screen time, waking up early and endless homework. This year, however, this humdrum routine is paired with the ongoing fear of COVID-19.
After spending almost a year in lockdown, leaving the safety of their homes may cause anxiety in some children. As parents, it is upon us to ensure our children are ready to go back to school mentally and physically healthy.
What causes anxiety in children?
First, we need to understand what causes anxiety in young children. Children are naturally curious about learning new things. But, not all of their experiences leave a positive impact. For example, when they lose a competition or get scratched by their pet, that negative experience creates fear within them. And when these fears go unresolved, it forms anxiety.
After spending almost a year isolated in fear of the virus, going back to school can be frightening for our children. This is especially true in children who themselves or people they know have been affected by the virus.
Fortunately, there are ways to calm their anxiety and help them brace the outside world once again.
What are the signs of anxiety in children?
According to the National Health Service (NHS), a child may be experiencing anxiety if they:
- find it hard to concentrate
- have irregular sleeping patterns
- have unhealthy eating habits
- get angry or irritable easily
- have negative thoughts constantly
- feel tense and fidgety
- often cry
- always want to be accompanied
- complain of tummy aches and feeling unwell
Do not worry if your children are showing any of the symptoms above as there are ways you can help them reduce and overcome their anxiety.
How to prepare preschoolers back to school?
Now that we understand how COVID-19 may be a cause of concern for children, here are the 5 best ways to deal with anxiety in preschoolers and bring back the joy of going back to school.
1. Acknowledge and validate their worries
You can help reduce anxiety in preschoolers by hearing them out. Be open to any concerns your child may have and address them calmly. For example, if your child’s biggest back-to-school fear is getting infected, acknowledge and accept it as an actual concern.
Once your child has shared their worries, gently offer ways to overcome this fear. In this case, you can teach basic school’s standard operating procedure (SOP) Remember, your child imitates your reaction. Your gentle approach in addressing your child’s fears validates their concerns, which in turn helps build their confidence in going back to school.
2. Get in touch with the preschool
How has the preschool prepared for students’ return? Will the desks be arranged at least 1 meter apart from one another? Are face masks to be worn at all times?
Getting in touch with your child’s preschool will not only help lower your worries but will also help you address your child’s concerns better. Get first-hand information from your child’s preschool of its preparation for conventional classes.
Ask as many questions, as many times, you need. Knowing what to expect will lower both your and your child’s anxiety.
3. Arrange playdates
It is not a secret that playing together helps build children’s character. It teaches them positive values such as sharing, honesty, kindness and more.
These values help children to grow up and become smart, selfless, and confident individuals. However, the lockdown has not only hindered such possibilities but also planted fear of such settings. To help them ease back to group activities, arrange playdates so that they can socialize with their friends safely.
4. Fix a routine
- Wake up at 6 a.m.
- Breakfast at 6.30 a.m.
- Buckle up by 7 a.m.
Sounds familiar? Well, this routine has been disrupted ever since the lockdown.
Some children may find it difficult to adapt to a routine quickly. This makes them anxious and even despise going back to school.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, children should start their school day routine 2 weeks before they go back to school. This gives parents ample time to tackle their child’s concerns while easing them into a routine.
5. Nurture independence
While they were separated from their peers, your presence was their only constant. Now, that is about to change. Avoid separation anxiety in your children by teaching them how to be independent.
You can start by leaving them with their caregiver for a short time or encouraging alone playtime while you do your chores. You can also reward them for successfully handling this detachment to set a positive outlook on the situation.
Get back to school safely and healthily
For some preschoolers, the term ‘back to school’ may be confusing. While for others, exhausting. It is important to remember that young children are still growing and adapting to life in general. Patience and positive reassurance are key to help our children transition back to school with ease.