UNCERTAINTY. I think that sums up this year so far. And with school beginning in a couple of weeks, I am sure that stress, anxiety, and the anticipation of what the new school year will look like and the new obstacles that will be faced are overwhelming. Not only to the students, but to parents, guardians, teachers, and administrators. That is why the social and emotional well-being of everyone needs to be addressed first. It lays the foundation and will help the transition to be more successful.
The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) as “how children and adults learn to understand and manage emotions, set goals, show empathy for others, establish positive relations, and make responsible decisions.”
As guardians of the children, whether you are a parent, relative, friend, or a teacher, we must first ensure that our own social-emotional needs are met. We all need personal connection and supportive relationships to handle the stresses in our lives. Be sure to practice self-care strategies, which include, processing your emotions, healthy eating, exercise, sleep, and mental stimulation. Once our own needs have been met, we can be of greater support for the children around us during this ever-changing situation.
According to the National Association of School Psychologists, “Teaching children positive preventive measures, talking with them about their fears, and giving them a sense of some control over their risk of infection can help reduce anxiety. This is also a tremendous opportunity for adults to model for children problem-solving, flexibility, and compassion as we all work through adjusting daily schedules, balancing work and other activities, getting creative about how we spend time, processing new information from authorities, and connecting and supporting friends and family members in new ways.”
As we all prepare for our children to return to school, the fear of the unknown is a lot to handle. There will be a lot of anxiety leading up to it. Following are some ways we can help them to have an easier transition back to school.
Children often look to the important adults in their lives for guidance during stressful situations. It is healthy to acknowledge that there is a certain level of concern, keeping it age appropriate, and teaching them how to respond properly. Do not ignore what is happening around us. Let your children ask questions, ask them questions, and talk to them about their feelings. Be their safe place and refuge.
Expect emotions. As we all know, these can come out in many ways. Allow them to express themselves in a constructive manner. Acknowledge that their emotions are real and understandable. Know that we do not always have to have the answers, but a long hug and the reassurance that we are all in this together will help them to feel safe, secure, and loved.
We can also help our children by first understanding ourselves what their day will look like. Obtain as much information as possible from the school district and share that with your child. Talk with them about the changes and come up with a plan to accommodate them. That will help alleviate some of their fears and anxieties.
Prepare them to be flexible. Regulations and school closures, etc. can change in an instant. Have a plan in place in case this happens. If planning helps calm your child, allow them to be a part of it.
Set reasonable goals and expectations for them, both at home and at school. This will give them a sense of accountability and achievement when goals are reached.
Talk with your child about how this pandemic has affected people in different ways. Not everyone will look at it the same. Help them to understand different perspectives and to show empathy to others.
When a child’s social and emotional needs are met, they are better prepared to learn academically. After the months of at-home learning, we need to equip our children to be ready for a successful new school year…and that begins emotionally.
During this worldwide pandemic, we all need the emotional support. But remember, we have survived a significant crisis and look how far we have come. We have all helped or have been helped by someone along the way, no matter how big or small. We are all coming together.
Maybe a better word for this year is…RESILIENCY!