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Back to school tips for facing our fears

Posted at 1:37 PM, Aug 26, 2020

Parents, teachers, and families are faced with stress, worry and fear as we begin another school year.

But unlike the usual back-to-school jitters, this year begins with masks, restrictions, and anxiety about a pandemic that is sweeping the country with added fears of it sweeping through classrooms.

For five longs months, we have all been waiting, worrying, and wondering what will happen with the coronavirus and what school will be like.

David "Dr. Dave" Schramm joined us with some common fears many children and parents have as students head back to school this unique year and some tips for parents to help them navigate the nerve-wracking start to the new school year.

1. It's okay to worry. This year is very different. It's normal and natural to experience all kinds of emotions, from fear and frustration to anger and anxiety. The key is not to set up camp in your worry pasture. Simply be aware of your stresses and fears is the first step to dealing with them.

2. Fear of the unknown. There is so much we don't know about what the next few months entail. The plans being made across various school districts are subject to change again, and again, and possibly again. It can be unhealthy when we become obsessed wondering about the future we have little control over. In fact, about 85 percent of the things we worry about never even happen! Recognize that you may not be able to fix everything, and that is okay. Take one day at a time instead of looking too far ahead.

3. Fear of falling behind. Many parents and students share this concern of not being able to catch up. However, in reality, all of our children are behind together. We can reach out to teachers and get suggestions for how we can help children with weaker skills, invest extra time on other apps and programs, or even hire a tutor to help them with math, for example. It's important to remember not to compare yourself or your child, or your school with others. Be okay with doing the best you can and things will work out—teachers have been trained to help students with a range of capabilities.

4. Fear of getting sick. This is a huge fear as we are reminded about the statistics every day. It is painful and scary to think that X number of people are getting sick and X number of people are dying from the virus every day. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 'the best available evidence indicates that COVID-19 poses relatively low risks to school-aged children. Children appear to be at lower risk for contracting COVID-19 compared to adults.' This isn't saying that children are immune to COVID-19, but it is suggesting that our children are at a lower risk, which may bring some comfort to parents. Washing hands and wearing masks are things we can all do to prevent sickness.

5. Fear of school not being the same. From lunches and recess to dances and assemblies, this school year will simply not be the same. Children won't be able to sit shoulder to shoulder at lunch and wearing masks on the playground will take some getting used to. But they can physically see their friends and have a few conversations or just be around other children. No right or wrong, it's just going to be different. One thing parents can do is listen and validate childrens' feelings without lecturing, reminding or beginning a sentence with the words, 'At least...' It won`t be easy for many children and letting them know it's okay to feel the way they do is a great way of validating their feelings.

For more parenting and relationship tips, follow Dr. Dave on Facebook @DrDaveUSU, Instagram @drdaveschrammor visit relationships.usu.edu.