Smoothing Transitions for Your Child
By Kelly McClarnon, LCSW – December 29, 2021 –
Christmas break is underway! As a Youth First Social Worker, I have met with several students who have difficulty transitioning back to the classroom after weekends and school breaks. My observation is that many of these kids also struggle with feelings of anxiety.
The pandemic has caused many children to complete schoolwork from home due to school closures, quarantines, and parental choice to avoid exposure to the virus. Spending long periods of time at home in a more relaxed environment is much different than a structured school setting with increased rules and expectations. At school, increased peer interaction can amplify these feelings of anxiousness in some children.
Below is a list of things parents can do when their child is having difficulty transitioning back to school:
- Have a consistent routine at home. Children thrive on routine. Making sure they know what’s coming next can help kids feel more secure and make transitions smoother.
- Make sure your child gets plenty of rest. When children feel tired, transitions can become more difficult. Being rested is essential to optimal school functioning and improved mood and mental health.
- Talk with them in the car on the way to school or before they leave. Ask them how they are feeling. Try to avoid leading questions like, “Are you anxious about going to school today?” Instead, try saying, “How are you feeling today?” This gives them the opportunity to identify how they are feeling and process those feelings prior to arriving.
- Try listening to uplifting music, talking, or praying to distract them from negative thoughts. If your child rides the bus, allow them to take a journal with positive messages they can read on the way to school.
- Reassure your child that it’s not actually the situation (school) that’s causing them to feel scared, nervous, or anxious – it’s the thoughts they have about it.
- Sometimes kids have legitimate reasons to want to avoid going to school such as problems with other peers, mental health concerns, and learning disabilities/academic struggles that make it difficult for them to keep up in school. Addressing these issues can lessen a child’s fears by knowing they have the necessary supports to help them succeed.
- Do not allow them to stay home from school even if they are having a difficult morning. This will only reinforce that avoiding school is acceptable when feeling upset and will make it even more difficult for them to go the next time school is in session.
- Praise your child when they transition to school successfully. Encourage them that facing their fears will actually reduce their anxiety in the long run. Teach them that uncomfortable feelings and emotions will pass.
Some difficulty with transitions is completely normal. It’s even hard for adults to go back to work after some time off. However, if you are having continual issues with your student transitioning to school, contact the school social worker. They are there to help identify why your child is struggling and will help you address this difficulty.