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Get kids ready mentally to go back to school

Two girls with backpacks holding hands as they walk down the street.

July 9, 2021—Back-to-school time is often exciting for kids. They get to see their friends again, meet new teachers and learn new things.

But last year's topsy-turvy school year may make some kids anxious about returning to school in the fall, according to the Child Mind Institute.

As a parent, you can help your kids cope with these stresses and worries. Here are a few ways to prepare and reassure them that going back to school will be safe and fun:

Get rock solid on the rules. There are no guarantees. But steps like wearing masks, social distancing and handwashing can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 when kids head back to the classroom. Make sure they know what will be expected of them, and reassure them that the rules are there to keep them safe.

Start a familiar routine. Before school starts, get them used to a daily schedule that matches what they'll have on school days. For instance, set regular times for:

  • Waking up and going to sleep.
  • Eating breakfast and lunch.
  • Taking a nap if they need one.
  • Picking out the next day's clothes.

Flex their social muscles. If it's safe to do so, arrange play dates with a friend in their social bubble before school starts. Having a familiar buddy when they go back to the classroom can help them ease back into in-person interactions.

Set the tone. Stay calm and positive when talking to your kids about their worries. Reassure them that their feelings are normal. Then focus on what they can do to feel better and how you can help.

Be on the watch. Kids show stress and anxiety in many different ways. They may act out, withdraw or show other changes. If these signs last more than a few weeks into school, talk to their doctor. In some cases, counseling might be helpful.

Wondering what vaccinations your child will need when returning to school? Use this guide to make sure they catch up on shots this summer.

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