Back at School: A Message From Dr. Patricia Newman

Students are back at school and settling in. We are all expecting a healthy school year, full of opportunities for kids to engage in many activities on a less restricted basis than in the past few years – and to interact with lots of different school friends – to learn new things and make new friends! 

I hope that everyone can find a way to convey a sense of hope and optimism to the kids they care about, because the kids can often sense how we are feeling about something, even if we state words to the contrary! We want them to have reasons to feel hopeful and positive about the upcoming year – the more they know what to expect, the less reason they will have to worry. This is important because “worry” can take up a lot of space in the mind of a child (or anyone else for that matter!)

Any transition to a new school year is accompanied by adjustments. Even positive adjustments can be stressful. 

This year’s transition is expected to be unique to students, parents, teachers – all of us. It has been a long time since we have all been together in a routine. Students had a wider variety of experiences over the last two years, with much less commonality anchored in the school routine of people, structure, and activity, than they normally do over a school break. Even with significant life changes that can occur in a child’s life in a “regular school year”, they can often return to the dependability of the school community. That dependability, over time, has been disrupted. That is not to say it can not be renewed! But as we return to school, expecting adjustments as we always do, a few things come to surface as being important:

  • Be positive, but watchful
  • Be patient, allow everyone to have breaks to share thoughts and feelings as needed
  • Keep up communication! Ask lots of “what” and “how” questions as they are open ended and nonjudgmental – it is ok to tell them you are just checking in!
  • If you are worried about your child, listen and talk with your child
  • If you are worried about your child, talk with someone you trust about your child 
  • Be aware of what is happening at school and in other places your child is participating 
  • Share your own feelings about adjustments you might be having so your child understands adjustments, changes, feelings, and responses to those are normal and to be expected
  • Explore different ways to cope and communicate no matter what the issue
  • Make sure your child (and you) knows the resources available for help and information

Recently a neighborhood child brought his friend to me to share his big fear for the year: that he would get Monkeypox. We were able to do some exploration online and put to rest some of those fears quickly! But we all still walked over to his house together so we could share our discussion with his mom! On the way home? The friend who led him to my house shared with me HE wasn’t worried about Monkeypox, but he was still worried COVID would “come back.” “If I have to be honest.” 

RESPECT works hard to “stage conversations” with our audiences – and it is a good idea for all of us to keep those conversations going as we start this new school year!