Come fall, kids will be back in school where they will have to face pandemic regulations and safeguarding practices including COVID-19 vaccines, social distancing, and mask-wearing. With children and parents having experienced major disruptions in their daily life, we are hopeful that opening schools will not only bring a little bit of normalcy back into everybody’s lives, but also improve children’s mental health and learning development.
The return to school is usually an exciting time for many students. Back to school shopping, new teachers, and seeing friends are all things that kids look forward to. But, in the midst of a global pandemic, this year may feel a lot different than ever before.
Are My Students Struggling with Anxiety?
It’s not always so black and white. In some situations, it can be pretty obvious that a student is struggling with anxiety, they may cry at drop-off, or skips class on a regular basis. However, it can also be quite hard to distinguish. They may be reluctant to read out loud in class or spend hours upon hours a day doing homework out of fear of failing.
Pay attention to your pupils’ behaviors and connect with parents to ensure their mental health is prioritized above their academic achievements. If you believe your students are experiencing symptoms of anxiety, provide and encourage them with the information and school facilities to help them overcome their struggles. The pandemic can be challenging for everyone; celebrating even the smallest milestones in personal growth will make a significant impact.
My Students are Scared to Come to School, how can I Help Them?
Don’t beat yourself up about it – this is expected. After a year of remote learning, it’s likely that children will feel reluctant to come back to class. According to Kids Help Phone, they have received a high volume of calls from children regarding back-to-school anxiety. Eight in ten children are nervous about returning to school and consider it a major stressor in their lives.
Here are some tips on how teachers can prepare their students to have a happy and healthy school year:
- Let students know it’s OK to not be OK – Entering school for the first time or after a year of remote learning can be intimidating. Encourage students to ask their teacher for help with anything, whether it be where the closest washroom is or extra help in a subject. Showing children that it’s okay to ask for help will provide them the support that they need to be successful and feel safe.
- Set attainable goals – Don’t overwhelm them. Creating small goals for students will help them adjust to their new learning environment and adapt to the changes from remote to in-person learning. Prioritize transitioning goals such as learning classroom routines, their teachers’ name and building friendships, prior to studies.
- Find creative ways to welcome students – For schools who are unable to provide tours for their students, create fun virtual ways to welcome them instead. This can include YouTube videos, Zoom calls, and social media posts on what students can expect. From back-to-school shopping essentials for class to knowing how to get your lunch from the cafeteria, preparing children will help reduce their anxiety.
- Praise students for being courageous – When you see a student doing something that you know provokes their anxiety, show them you’ve noticed by praising them for facing their fear. This will help children gain the courage to stay motivated and continue to succeed in their school year.
Submitted by: Natasha Pande