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Transitioning Back to School: Supporting your Children’s Social and Emotional Well-Being

As we enter the last week of summer and turn our attention to getting ready for the first days of school, we want to emphasize Bialik’s strong focus on our student’s social and emotional well-being during this transition. Our administration and teachers have our students’ well-being at heart and we want our families to know that we are here to support everyone in a successful return to school.

As part of our support plan, our School Counsellors and Psychologist have shared strategies that parents can use at home to help their children feel well-prepared for the new school year. They emphasize that when preparing your child to transition back to in-school learning, be mindful of what they may or may not need. Overdoing it can sometimes create unnecessary anxiety for children who are otherwise calm and ready. For more details about these strategies, please read the full document: Transitioning Back to School: Supporting your Child’s Social and Emotional Well-Being: Guidance from Your School Counsellors and School Psychologist>>

  1. How are you doing?

Take a moment to reflect on how you, as a parent, are feeling. As parents, we want to show our children that all feelings are normal and we can deal with uncomfortable emotions, while we role model positivity and problem solving.  Identify your own worries so you can differentiate between what’s worrying you and what’s worrying your child. Ensure you only respond to worries that they have identified.  

  1. Give your child/ren space to ask questions 

Let your child ask questions and lead the discussion. You can start with, “You’re going back to school next week! I’m really excited for you. What questions do you have about this year?” This will give you insight into what your child is thinking without unintentionally projecting your own worries. Role model calmness and confidence while giving age-appropriate, honest answers that directly address their questions. Resist responding with answers that may feel dismissive, such as, “Don’t worry about that,” or “Everything will be okay.” Your child will return with additional questions if they feel heard and validated.

  1. Feelings about transitioning back to school 

Your child will probably feel a lot of different emotions about coming to school, ranging from excitement and relief to worry and fear. We strongly encourage you to let your child know that this is normal. We anticipate some challenging moments which may result in more emotional outbursts than usual at the beginning of the school year, which is also normal. Children typically keep their emotions bottled up until they are in a safe and secure place, such as when they’re at home with their parents. Brainstorm ideas with your child about what they can do when uncomfortable feelings come up. 

  1. Focus on the positive and optimism

Create a culture of positivity and instill this in your child through the language you use to talk about school, your tone and your overall attitude. After you’ve acknowledged your child’s thoughts and feelings, focus on what children can do now that they’re back at school, such as talking and playing with their friends. 

  1. Control and empowerment 

Give your child choices and a voice when possible. For example, include them in purchasing their new school supplies, picking their masks, clothes, lunches and snacks, creating a routine, and how they’d like to celebrate the end of each school day. Focusing on what we can control gives us agency, confidence and promotes resilience.

  1. Attachment and separation

Many children have become quite used to being home with their family and this may make separating more difficult in the first few weeks of school. Before the school year begins, focus on empowering them to feel confident, excited and secure. You can do this by saying things such as, “I am so excited for you to begin Grade X,” and “You have grown up so much! I can’t believe you’ll be doing X,Y and Z.” Provide positive passive reminders that you will be home and excited to greet them after the school day and give them extra love and support with hugs and words of love and reassurance. Small and special items that provide reassurance and smiles are also helpful for some children, such as a keychain on their backpack or decals on their water bottle. 

  1. Sleep and Routine 

It will be easier for children to adjust positively to going back to school if they are well-rested. The Canadian Paediatric Society’s guidelines suggest 3-5-year-old children need 10-13 hours of sleep, 6-12-year-olds need 9-12 hours, and 13-18-year-olds need 8-10 hours. We suggest you gradually make adjustments to their schedule so your child is getting enough sleep. Creating a consistent and predictable school-day routine will help them feel safe.

  1. Mask Wearing

Masks are new for all of us and we recognize that wearing a mask takes some getting used to. Let your child try a few masks to decide which are most comfortable and include your child in choosing colours and patterns. Have your child practise wearing a mask in short intervals, gradually building up their tolerance. For younger children who may be struggling, make masks for their stuffed animals, superheroes and dolls or play a family game where everyone is required to wear a mask around the house.

Whatever your child/ren or your family may be experiencing, Bialik’s support team is available to help with our community’s social and emotional well-being. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to them to book an appointment:

Rachel Ehrlich: rehrlich@bialik.ca (Viewmount Branch)

Debra Danilewitz: ddanilewitz@biaik.ca (Himel Branch)

Dr. Dana David: ddavid@biailk.ca (School Psychologist)