A new normal is emerging, striped with scars from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Businesses are opening, albeit with additional safety measures. Grocery store shelves are decently stocked, considering the current state of the world. And schools are preparing to open, although with extensive modifications.
The 2019-2020 school year ended abruptly, assuming that students would return again after a few weeks. Time passed and your kids never got to say goodbye to their teacher, take one final field trip, or even attend their favorit end-of-the-school-year celebrations.
That lack of closure opened the doors to a tricky summer, but another school year is fast approaching. Don’t assume that your kids understand that school will look different this year, that they may no longer be allowed to hug their teacher or high five a friend, that they may not be able to borrow books from the library, or even that their recreation time has been reduced to zero minutes per day.
This is a new way of life for your kids, and they need help navigating this new kind of school—and all of the anxieties, fears, uncertain thoughts, or passionate emotions that will tag along.
First, ask yourself
Before you can deeply engage this subject with your kids and teens, you should plan a few minutes to consider or journal your own responses, feelings, and reactions.
- Did you have a major event take place during your childhood? How did you react to it? Think about your words, feelings, actions, behaviors, and friendships that resulted from that season.
- Who does your child feel most known and loved by? How can that individual be a guide during the back-to-school season?
- How have each of your children handled the Covid-19 season? Which one needs the most assistance or the most time to process in conversations? Which one has the most to lose? Consider sporting events like state championships, rites-of-passage like prom, or relationational activities such as clubs or small groups.
- Are there barriers that prevent you from connecting with your child? How can you bridge those gaps?
- Have you been taking the time to process, be relational, and care for yourself during this pandemic?
Then, ask your kids
Don’t cheat yourself. Intentionally and thoughtfully ask yourself those questions above. Talk through the answers with your spouse or a trusted friend. And once you have personally processed, engage in a conversation with your kids.
Remember that each child is different, so you may want to have collective and individual conversations with each of your kids. Don’t forget that these are also sensitive and fresh topics, relatable to ripping a bandage off a fresh wound. Your teen may wince at your blunt questions, even though the topics are relevant. Your younger kids may refuse to engage, almost as if they don’t even acknowledge that there is a boo-boo under the bandage.
Take your time. They aren’t going back to school tomorrow–and even if they do return to the classroom tomorrow, these conversations will be relevant for the following weeks.
- How do you feel about going back to school?
- What do you think will be the same or different this school year? (If you have updated information about the school year, this is a great time to share it! For example, you will eat lunch in your classroom instead of the cafeteria, or you will have to wear a mask on the school bus.)
- What advice have your friends or teachers given about going back to school after this virus?
- How have your friendships changed since this pandemic started in March?
- Do you think your friendships will go back to normal once your return to school?
- How can you be aware of your friends’ thoughts and emotions during this semester?
- The news and social media have a lot to say about what schools should do this semester. What do you think about all of the information?
- Do you feel pressure to have a certain opinion about (fill in the blank)? Examples: face masks, hand sanitizer, social distancing, online learning, home schooling, etc.
- What are you looking forward to during this school year?
- After school starts, how can I check on you to see how you are doing? Or is there another adult that you feel more comfortable talking to?
Next, observe and follow up
Asking questions gets the ball rolling. But eventually a ball will stop moving, unless you give it another push. As your kids pack their backpacks and meet their new teachers, be observant. Note what brings them joy and which activities stir up anxiety. Be aware of how well they handle the new normal.
Don’t forget to follow up. After their first day of school is an obvious time to recall these conversations. At the end of their first week makes sense too. But don’t let these topics disappear like a ball that has fallen down a hole. If life returns to a pre-Covid normal this Fall, that’s amazing! But these discussions are still worthwhile, so your child can process those times and then fully jump into the next season of life. However, if life remains modified, your child will need your help to navigate the new normal. Don’t leave them hanging like a ball stuck in a tree.
What if these conversations bring up more problems than solutions?
That’s absolutely possible. And when that happens, we are here to join your team.
You, as Mom or Dad, are the perfect person to love, lead, and nurture your children. But topics like anxiety, depression, fear, or radical behavior changes are not symptoms that you need to face alone.
Our staff want to help you lead your family well, so let’s talk. If you need a wise counselor to help, we are here for you. If your child needs someone to talk to, our team includes pediatric specialists who can form a healthy and helpful relationship with your child. all us today to get started—even if tomorrow is the first day of school or if your kids have been in the classroom for a month.
Did any of these questions sparked a conversation between you and your child? We would love to hear about it in the comments below!
Teen Social Anxiety