How to talk with children about back-to-school anxiety

Back To School

DENVER (KDVR) — School districts across Colorado are welcoming back students, and for many students, it’s their first time in the classroom in more than a year.

“This year, there is a lot of uncertainty with COVID. But this year, my kids need more socialization and more structure and to separate from each other also,” Sarah Bailey, a mother of four kids, said.

Bailey said last year they decided to homeschool their school-age children because of the pandemic. She said they have decided for the upcoming school year to allow them back in the classroom, but she said there is some anxiety on both ends about the return.

“I try to not freak them out. I don’t want them to be nervous and feel loved and safe and be mindful of the recommendations, but not too nervous about it,” Bailey said.

She said one of the biggest challenges she thinks her children will face is when it comes to masks.

“They are excited but also anxious too they didn’t have to wear masks last year because they were at home,” Bailey said.

Rachel Slick, a behavioral health clinician at UCHealth, said there are a few main worries children are dealing with when returning to school this year.

“I’ve heard worry over peer interactions thinking that they haven’t seen fellow students in a while. There is also hesitation about masks from the kids that are wearing them. They are scared of being judged,” Slick said.

She said parents really need to focus on making home feel like a safe space and to get into routines with their children so they feel comfortable at home.

One recommendation she has is a daily check-in.

“We share the best part about that day, the scariest part about that day and something they are looking forward to, so when they get in the car, they know it’s something constant,” Slick said.

Another thing she said parents need to do is keep an eye on their child’s behavior and check in with teachers to make sure the behavior is consistent both at home and school.

“If a child is more withdrawn when they are usually more conversational, that could mean it was a tougher day,” Slick said.

Slick said that right now, both parents and children have the fear of the unknown, and that’s just fine to feel that way. She said just keep the conversation open.

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