How to help your kids deal with back-to-school anxiety amid pandemic

Posted at 9:27 AM, Sep 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-01 12:27:42-04

Many parents are looking forward to getting their kids back in school and kids are eager to see their friends, but some have gotten really used to having Mom and Dad around all the time and now that’s going away.

It’s yet another big change thanks to COVID-19 and it can be overwhelming for some kids who don’t know how to express new feelings of anxiety.

Child development experts say anxiety looks a lot different in kids than it does in adults and it can be mistaken for bad behavior.

RELATED: Worried about your kids and COVID-19 stress? Spotting signs of stress in children at any age

Parents should watch for changes in behavior that can look like anger or they may be more defiant -- throwing tantrums, refusing to eat lunch, or not wanting to get on the bus when the time comes. Kids could have new trouble sleeping. They may ask more questions than usual about what's going to happen and why they have to wear masks, but that's not a bad thing.

Allison Steier from Southwest Human Development says that's your window to help calm them down.

"Make the connection between their behavior and their feelings. Say things like, 'I think you don't like getting on the bus in the morning or you don't like going to school because you're worried about it. You're not used to it. We had a big break, we were together all the time, and this is a change.'"

She says a great way to prevent anxiety when it comes to returning to school is to practice the morning routine or going to the bus stop. Also, play games that have themes where you need to wear masks or separate desks.

Steier says you may see some of their worries come out then and can address it early.

If you need more guidance, Southwest Human Development has a free parent hotline 24/7 at 877-705-KIDS (5437).