EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Thinking about being back in the classroom can be stressful for some kids, and the pandemic hasn’t made the transition from summer to school any easier.
“For many children, that period of time is really tricky and stressful,” said Dr. Nicole Nugent, a child clinical psychologist who works at Bradley Hasbro Children’s Research Center and Brown University doing research related to stress.
“All of our kids will have experienced the pandemic at some really key developmental stage right now,” she added.
Kids may have a harder time socially or be worried about falling behind academically. According to Nugent, if your child is feeling anxious, you may notice some signs.
“Just sort of pay attention,” Nugent advised. “Notice how they’re doing. Maybe even say out loud, ‘I wonder if you’re feeling nervous about school? Lots of kids feel that way.’”
Nugent said to make sure your child knows that their feelings are valid. She also recommends trying to frame school in a different way.
“The ways that we talk about school are really powerful and important, and so rather than saying, ‘You have to go back to school,’ you can frame it, ‘You get to go back to school.’ These little things, these little tweaks we can make in our language give a little bit of a message to our kid,” Nugent explained.
Letting your child pick out their school supplies can also help.
“Some of those preparations can actually be exciting and can be ways to reinforce to your kiddo that it’s pretty great that you’re going to get to go back to school. You get to pick out the backpack that you really want,” Nugent said.
While the first day of school is still weeks away, now is a good time to start getting kids back into their bedtime routines.
Nugent recommends being partners with your teenagers and approaching going to bed at an earlier time collaboratively. She suggested saying: “You’re going to have to start waking up crazy early again in the morning. How are we going to do this?”
In some cases, it may be best to talk to a health professional.
“If you see that your kids are really continuing to be nervous, if they’re complaining in the mornings, ‘I don’t feel well enough. I think I might be sick. I don’t want to go to school,’ then it’s time to talk to a psychologist,” Nugent said.
To access mental health resources in Rhode Island, click here.