The best way to help youngsters’s psychological well being in the course of the college yr

University psychology scholars are giving parents and guardians some pointers on how to lower their children’s anxiety levels in a potentially challenging school year with a recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

When the kids go back to the classrooms there will be a mix of emotions associated with their return.

While many will be happy to see their friends and teachers again in person, a layer of COVID-19 fears lurks in the background. In fact, research shows that adults’ anxiety is 30 to 40 percent higher than usual during the pandemic, and according to little research on children, trends mirror those of adults. As a result, kids are likely to feel more overwhelmed than they would during a typical academic year, agree child psychologists at the University of Miami.

“It’s not uncommon for children to be scared of starting school,” said Rebecca Bulotsky-Shearer, associate professor of psychology. “It’s the unknown, but it’s also been a long time since we had a ‘normal’ personal start at school, so everyone gets used to a new routine.”

Though it’s natural for kids to feel uncomfortable before a new school yearespecially for those starting in a new buildingParents and guardians can help their children make the transition, claim psychologists from the University of Miami.

  • Bulotsky-Shearer is an early childhood expert and former school, child, and community psychologist who directs the Early Childhood Social and Emotional Readiness Lab, which is committed to promoting socio-emotional and academic readiness in low-income students.
  • Psychology professor Jill Ehrenreich-May is an expert on anxiety in children and adolescents and leads the program for the treatment of mood and anxiety in children and adolescents, which offers cognitive behavioral therapy to children struggling with depression and anxiety.
  • Professor Amanda Jensen-Doss is Head of Children’s Psychology and the Child Implementation and Effectiveness Lab. Her research focuses on improving access to evidence-based mental health services for children.

The experts gave parents and guardians some tips on how to deal with children and their reactions.

The children’s reactions will be mixed. Some can regulate their emotions better, while others find new situations more threatening.

“Some children will be very happy to come back to school, others will find it difficult to separate from their parents or to move to a new class or a new school building,” said Jensen-Doss. “Going back to school means spending most of the day dealing with other children, as well as the academic stress of class. And for some children these can be uncomfortable adjustments. “

Show confidence that your child’s school has made the safety of all students a priority, even if you are still concerned about COVID-19 exposure.

“This year will be different and there may be situations in which many children feel less safe than usual, but we know that parents who send messages of insecurity can inadvertently make their child more afraid,” said Ehrenreich-May . “Parents can set the tone regardless of the situation; And when we let our children go to school, we accept a certain risk and also accept that the schools have a plan to keep them as safe as possible. “

Jensen-Doss added: “Children are very sensitive to our own fears. So if we freak out, they’ll notice and be more scared. “

Create a predictable and consistent daily routine at home.

Some key messages we get from national research as well as from our own research on anxiety in children (both during and before COVID-19) indicate that, according to Ehrenreich, the more normal things become for children, the more their fear decreases feel -can.

Jensen-Doss agreed. “We know that one way to support children is to have things be predictable so they know what to expect,” she said.

Prepare children to gradually adjust to a schedule and lifestyle.

Step-by-step preparation could be starting a regular bedtime a few days before school starts and practicing the morning routine to get out the door, Bulotsky-Shearer said. She also recommended limiting the time spent playing video games to a week before school starts.

“Try to return to an established structured routine. Because there are many things that children can adjust to; and it’s especially important for the little ones to get enough sleep, ”added Bulotsky-Shearer.

Also, practice any experience that you expect your child might be nervous aboutbe it socialization or going out, emphasized Jensen-Doss. For example, if they’re not used to seeing other kids often, organize a play date or go out more to get them used to being in public before the first day of school.

With younger children, help your child prepare mentally and physically for school by reading books about them. and if possible by visiting their classroom and meeting their teacher (s) before school starts.

When visiting the classroom, parents and guardians can also share some of the child’s favorite things with the teacher to create a bond. But older children who are moving to a new school also get a little nervous on the first day, explained Bulotsky-Shearer. Talk to them at their level about what to expect in each setting, She said.

Sometimes parents and guardians should take a step back and combat the instinct to rescue their child from a stressful situation.

Avoid diving in to the rescue. For example, if your child is in school and a classmate around them isn’t masked, you need to trust their ability to use social distancing to protect themselves or ask the other child to put on their mask, Ehrenreich-May noted.

“Many parents today are understandably more accommodating and protective of their child because of the security threats that exist, but it can really help express confidence in their child in brief, intermittent bursts,” she added. “If the parents intervene to save the child immediately, that child will be less sure of coping with difficult situations on their own in the future. And in this case maybe less self-confident in school. “

In collaboration with The Children’s Trust, the Ehrenreich May Clinic has developed a 40-minute course, Project EMPOWER, to help parents and guardians manage accommodation and reduce children’s anxiety. Sign up here free of charge.

Listen to children’s fears as they share them. And just answer questions.

Simple answers are best. And that advice can apply to teachers, parents, and guardians, according to Bulotsky-Shearer.

“We need to realize that everything that has happened in the past year and a half has been very disruptive to children, so we need to develop relationships with children who are having trouble calming them down before learning can really take place again,” she said .

If they are concerned or have questions about COVID-19, parents and guardians should acknowledge the child’s concerns and answer questions at a basic level, but not over-reassure them about things that are beyond their control.

“Whenever a child has a legitimate fear, we want to be fair and exchange brief, factual information and then consider together how the child can reduce its risk,” said Ehrenreich-May. “You can give short, simple statements like ‘it’s safe to go to school’, ‘wearing your mask protects you’ and ‘I know you have it.’ ”

Find out about their school policy on COVID-19.

Knowing your child’s school rules can help allay their worries and explain exactly what the school is doing to keep them safe. “For example, we wear masks, wash our hands and keep our distance,” said Jensen-Doss. For younger children, there are also picture stories that explain the importance of wearing masks, said Bulotsky-Shearer.

“Teaching children that there are rules that will help them stay safe can help alleviate their fears,” she added. “We can’t promise you won’t get COVID-19, but we can say the school is doing its best.”

Most children will get used to school within a few days, psychologists agree. However, if your child has been hesitant or anxious for weeks about joining new situations, unwilling to do things they would normally enjoy, or having severe reactions (like out of control tantrums or avoidance behaviors) to certain things, it may indicate that they need guidance from a psychologist, Ehrenreich-May noted.

“The good thing about anxiety is that it is very treatable,” she said, adding that children typically take around 12 to 16 sessions to learn new skills to help them overcome their fears.


To learn more about the CAMAT Clinic or to get treatment for your child, visit their website. Parents and guardians can also find help for their children on the Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies Association website.

There will also be a virtual Back to School Town Hall on Friday at 12 noon, hosted by the University’s Mailman Center for Child Development, for all families of school-age children. Register here.

For resources on how to talk to your child about COVID-19 or how to manage stress, click here. For teacher resources on wearing masks, click here.

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