Summer habits for an easier back-to-school transition

As school district administrators put the final touches on back-to-school plans, doctors suggest families do the same. The fall 2021 semester may look a lot different once again due to the coronavirus pandemic.

There are some things you can do to help make the transition back to school a little easier for kids and parents. 

From isolation to inclusion, the pandemic continues to change the landscape of learning. 

"All of this has led to a lot of uncertainty, a lot of fear with what’s happening in the world, and as we’re starting to ramp up toward going back into in-person, into school, it’s creating a lot of anxiety, understandably, and a lot of nervousness amongst us and our children," said Brian Leitzke, a clinical health psychologist at UW Health.

Leitzke said now is the time to mentally prepare kids for the upcoming school year.

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"Talk these things through to prepare them and build their confidence for getting back into school," he said.

He said if your child’s school allows, tour the building to see how things will look, learn the mask policies and safety protocols and build predictability leading up to the first day of school.

"Start designing some routines that children can count on. This can be school drop-off and pick-up, after-school activities," he said. "Anything children can look forward to outside of that school time."

If possible, figure out your child's individual schedule, and review and adjust individualized education plans and 504 plans sooner than later. 

"If there are changes needed, you can start addressing that now so you can put those in place ahead of time," he said.

Lastly, Leitzke said to be flexible, as the school year could be disrupted again by a surge in COVID-19 cases. Be patient, try to identify how students are feeling and frame questioning in a positive way.

"The more we talk this through with our children with them, or we can give them a little bit of a heads up so they can deal with some of the unpredictable nature of this," he said.

Leitzke said parents should find out what resources might be available at school for kids who are struggling during the school day ahead of time and contact a pediatrician if any unexpected behavior changes or worrisome disruptions in eating or sleeping patterns are observed.

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