Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, young students have faced a lot of change the past couple years. While some children may have always been a little apprehensive at the start of the new school year, the fear or uncertainty of returning to school might be more prevalent than usual. Although what school looks like this September will vary by region, grade and school boards, most schools are gearing up for in-person learning again. If your child seems anxious about the start of this school year, there are many things you can do as a parent to help ease their concern. First, consider what your child is saying: 

"Where will you be while I'm at school?"

While you may be celebrating your newfound freedom, your child may not be sharing those happy thoughts: after spending months with you at home, they may be facing a bit of separation anxiety. To help prepare them for heading out on their own, start by slowly spending time apart. If you’re comfortable, schedule playdates or ask another family to watch your child and help them get accustomed to not having you so close by. 

A great way to answer is...tell your child about what you’ll be doing while they’re in school. Reinforce the time when you’ll be seeing them again and make mention of the exciting things you will do as a family when you’re back together. 

"What if it's not safe in there?"

You’ve just spent countless months reminding your child not to get too close to people, to sanitize their hands and wear their mask. Now suddenly they’re being told it’s ok to get close to people again. Your child may be wondering if it really is safe to go back. The best way to squelch uncertainty is to arm them with facts!  

A great way to answer is … Tell them that you understand their worry, while assuring them that everyone is working hard to keep things safe. Share the school’s safety protocols with them and listen to some uplifting news information, and show them ways that the world is evolving. 

"What if my friends aren't my friends anymore?"

Quarantining meant a lot of us not seeing our friends for a long time — children included. Re-entering their orbit — or social circle — can be daunting. Of course, everyone will be in the same boat, but they may not see it that way. Research shows that seeing a familiar face on that first day can help improve a child’s academic and emotional adjustment.

A great way to answer is …remind your child that their friends have gone through the same quarantine journey they have and may be just as worried about reconnecting.  Suggest  setting up playdates with school chums or encourage your child to get together with friends in the weeks leading up to back to school.

"What if everyone is smarter than me?"

Remote learning over an extended period has taken a toll, with many students falling behind predominantly in math. To stay on top of this, establish an ongoing dialogue with your child’s teachers and have them reach out to you if they notice your child is lagging.

A great way to answer this is… remind your child that everybody is in the same boat and that teachers aren’t expecting everyone to return remembering everything. There will likely be a review before jumping into new material, and you can always arrange for some extra help with a tutor, if need be.

How can I help make my child less anxious?

When in doubt, turn to the experts: Anxiety Canada has tips for educators to help kids face their fears, which are also useful for parents. Here are a few to get you started: 

  • Keep the talk open and ongoing. Encourage your child to voice their worries and ask questions. If you don’t know the answer, research it together.
  • Say bravo for being brave and facing their fears. Moving forward takes courage and going back to school is a big step. Give them a big hooray for that.
  • Figure out how to help your child relax. Look into calm breathing, mindfulness exercises, taking a quick mental vacation or tense and release exercises. If this sounds too sedentary for your restless or technology-driven child, find some alternative apps to help your child get through anxious moments. Decide together what will work best!
  • Build a list of positive things to look forward to. New friends, new things to learn, new school supplies and clothes to buy, new teams and clubs to join… there are so many things to be excited about and excitement is contagious!
  • Be a positive role model. How you react impacts how your children act. Enjoy now instead of worrying about what the future might hold, and watch your children follow suit.


How to make yourself less anxious:

This is easier said than done, since a parent's worries never seem to end! One thing you know you can worry about less is their future education, since you’ve started saving with a CST RESP. With the back-to-school season top of mind, now is a good time to review your savings plan and connect with your CST Sales Representative. Don’t have a CST RESP yet? Connect with us to learn how to open one today!

In summary, back-to-school can be challenging for everyone. But being considerate of your child's feelings, walking them through their emotions and being the voice of reason is a sure way to help them navigate this new landscape, and help mitigate their back-to-school worries. 

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