Groups such as the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) and the Child Mind Institute acknowledge that the transition back to school can be emotionally fraught for your kid.
Back to school can mean back to crowds, back to cliques, back to bullies. That can test any kid’s social awareness skills that may have lain dormant during summer break.
While on summer break, your kid may have been hanging out with a few friends and family. Some were playing on teams, or doing group arts projects. Those whose families or communities don’t offer many summer program or enrichment may have been fairly isolated.
Kids might say that they love being back with their friends,teammates, bandmates and activities, but navigating all that togetherness take social awareness, which is one of the cornerstones of social emotional learning.
School Segregation Is An SEL Challenge
Returning to school brings contact to different ethnic, social, language groups. It can also bring back exposure to school cliques that have their own cultures. Plus, according to the Urban Institute, schools are growing more segregated.
Back-to-school is a perfect time for majority kids, minority kids, all kids to practice social awareness. Their peers, teachers, and staff can help kids recognize the different lens or set of values that different groups bring to the school environment.
Be Aware of Other Students
Your kid may see other students who are acting out, withdrawn, or isolated. That can add to your own kid’s back-to-school feelings. Parents can encourage kids to simply name the emotional behaviors and reactions they see without judging. Simply identifying what’s going on helps to cope.
The ADAA encourages kids to be friendly and assertive by seeking out fellow students who seem as if they need a friend. This can be a win-win situation for kids working through back-to-school anxieties.
Asking For and Getting Help
Even with the best of intentions and effort, sometimes the return to school is just too much for kids. This is especially true for big transitions like elementary school to middle school, middle school to high school, or just moving into a new district.
Kids need to know when and how to get support. That can come from teachers, counselors, peers, parents, trusted relatives, friends.
Parents can tell their kid that simply acknowledging the need for some downtime is positive growth. Acknowledging the need for help is a skill on its own to be developed, evaluated, and praised.
After all, kids can feel a lot of pressure to always be “on” when they’re at school. A little awareness can lift a lot of pressure.