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Kids with back-to-school anxieties will adapt with ‘good routine’, say experts

Last Updated Aug 14, 2020 at 7:02 am PDT

Summary

Kids may worry about bringing COVID-19 home to family

Children need compassion in 2020, not pressure to perform, expert says

Expert says it's important to appear ‘confident’ around kids ahead of September

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The annual joy and excitement of back-to-school time may be eclipsed by a less desirable anxiety as active COVID-19 cases continue to rise in British Columbia, warn experts.

While kids are usually getting ready to rock up with their latest hair cuts and vacation stories after a summer of fun, this September is likely to have a more nervous energy, say experts, warning parents to keep an eye on their children’s behavior and mood.

BC Children’s Hospital’s Dr. Ashley Miller says kids could be fearing everything from what a new cohort learning environment looks and feels like, to who they will be sharing that cohort with.

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She says many are also likely worried about getting sick or bringing the coronavirus home to at-risk family members.

“Change is always hard, but people of all ages are adaptable and in many ways, kids more than anyone else,” she says.

Miller adds kids tend to take social and emotional cues from the adults around them, so it’s important to try to appear confident, even if you have some doubts. She says it’s also important to start holding more distanced playdates or outings to help normalize being around others.

“I actually think once you have a good routine, kids will do well,” she says.

If a few weeks of classes pass and your kids are still struggling to adjust, it’s important to look for signs such as shifts in mood and behaviour that might signal that there’s a serious anxiety that needs to be dealt with.

Nikki Martyn is the head of Early Childhood Studies and the University of Guelph-Humber and says back-to-school stress is a lot for parents, students and teachers, so now is the time to extend compassion, especially to youth.

However, she, too, has faith that kids are going to surprise everyone with their ability to take things in stride.

“We’re teaching children the important skill of resilience; the ability to bounce back through adversity. This is an important skill that they’ll learn that they can persevere and get through difficult stressful circumstances,” she says.

In some cases, it may be appropriate to seek professional mental health supports, says Martyn.