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Helping Your Child Cope with Back-to-School Stress

by Pam Wilsen, School-Based Mental Health Therapist

SARASOTA COUNTY, July 27, 2020 – Fall 2020 is shaping up to be the most unprecedented back-to-school time for our students and families in recent history. They are returning from a prolonged summer break, with online learning preceding that during a global pandemic. Families have been faced with making the difficult choice of sending their child to “brick and mortar” school, to utilize the online options that school districts and states are offering, or to home-school their children. Whatever choice is made, there is a higher level of stress and uncertainty going into this coming school year than there has ever been before.

How do we cope with such stress? What can we do to make this time less scary for our children, even if we ourselves are unsure during this difficult time?

  • Practice self-care. The analogy of putting on your own oxygen mask first is a good one because it demonstrates that we are less effective in caring for our loved ones if we are not caring for ourselves, too.
  • Take time to talk to your children about what the start of this school year will look like for them. Allow them to ask questions and be honest with them. If there is something you do not know the answer to, let your children know you will do your best to find out.
  • Set a schedule and begin practicing it now. Whether your family is home schooling, utilizing virtual school services, or returning to brick and mortar, establishing your routine before the school year starts will help to ease the transition once school officially begins.
  • And finally, for those who are returning to brick and mortar school, begin practicing wearing a mask with your child. Practicing this now will allow children to be more accustomed to wearing it throughout their school day and less likely to be distracted by the mask once school starts.

I hope you found these tips helpful. Stay safe and keep the lines of communication open – we will get through this together!

Pam Wilsen provides mental health services to children and families at Emma E. Booker Elementary School. The Florida Center for Early Childhood’s School-Based Mental Health Program is a partnership between the Florida Center, the Sarasota County Schools, and the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. It is meant to keep high-risk children in school meet their academic milestones through multi-generational therapy for the students and their families.