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5 Tips for Helping Kids Manage Back-To-School Stress

Well, it’s official: School is back in session in Maine and kids from Pre-K to 12th grade have returned to the classroom… or the Zoom room. School may look different for many kids this year, and for a lot of students, the place where school actually takes place changes day by day, week by week. That could mean homeschooling, distance learning, classroom learning – or any combination of the three – a situation that’s bound to create some stress for even the most secure kiddos (and their parents or caregivers, for that matter). With school underway and first-day jitters (hopefully) far behind them, now is a great time to strategize how you and your child will manage any stress that might arise throughout the school year. 

Having a plan in place for when times get tough or kids begin to feel overwhelmed can ease stress and help them feel supported – and it works for parents, too. In fact, there’s data to suggest simply approaching stressful times with a positive attitude could make a positive impact on both parents and children! Thankfully, you don’t have to go it alone when it comes to strategizing how you’ll handle the ups and downs of the school year – the Maine Department of Education has created a thorough resource for parents and caregivers called Continuity of Learning.

Whether you’re looking for strategies on discussing COVID-19 with your child or teen, searching for tips about emotional wellbeing throughout the school year, or even looking for educational resources for kids of all ages, the Continuity of Learning provides a wealth of FREE information for navigating this especially challenging time. Below, we’ve rounded up five of the Maine Department of Education’s tips for helping children and teens navigate the stress of the school year. Check them out below, then head over to  Continuity of Learning to discover even more free resources.

1. Set a Daily Schedule

Do you have a daily schedule? According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, children feel more confident and secure when their daily routines are predictable and familiar. Not only that but as children grow, having a predictable routine can actually help them adapt to changes more easily. Of course, creating a predictable schedule right now is easier said than done. If your child is back in the classroom, create schedules for before and after school (like waking up at the same time each day, having breakfast, doing homework, and getting ready for bed) to help them stay on track. If your child is learning from home, try using this template to create an easy-to-follow routine. In both cases, remember to include time for learning/homework, physical activity, and relaxation – and for variation, schedules shouldn’t be so rigid that they don’t allow room for flexibility.

2. Create a Study Zone

If you’ve been working from home at all throughout the past year – or longer – you likely understand how helpful it can be to have a dedicated workspace to perform your tasks. The same goes for kids and classwork and homework! Even if your child is back in the classroom, creating a cozy, quiet, and comfortable space to do their work can help them concentrate. Plus, in the event of sudden distance learning, there will be a familiar space already set up for them to attend online school. That being said, allow some flexibility and choice. For example, if your child has a reading assignment, let them choose between two spaces (like the couch or sitting outdoors on a nice day) where they can read their book.

3. Nurture Their Hobbies

Whether your child is distance learning or back in the classroom, leave room in their busy schedules to nurture the hobbies and activities they love to do. If your child or teen loves to make art, let them get a little messy, or if they’re interested in the outdoors, plan a family outing, like a hike, on the weekend. Outdoor activities, like team sports or playing in the park, can also be a great way to socialize with friends and classmates while remote learning.

4. Support Their Emotions

School can be stressful, even in the best of times, add to that remote learning and shifting schedules, and it can be a rollercoaster of emotions for kids – which isn’t always easy for parents to navigate. Kids haven’t yet developed the skills to regulate and manage their strong feelings and emotions, which is why it’s important for parents and caregivers to help them. If your child is sad or upset, try to honor and acknowledge what they’re feeling, and help them process so they can move past it. It may be helpful to take a walk with them and get some fresh air – studies have shown that simply going outside and breathing in the fresh air can be beneficial for wellbeing. Visit the Continuity of Learning website for more resources, including recommended resources for mindfulness and meditation for kids and teens.

5. Be Patient

We know, we know – easier said than done, especially when it comes to a stressed-out kiddo. This is why it’s just as important for parents and caregivers to be patient with themselves while navigating the ups and downs of the school year. The Maine Department of Education’s Continuity of Learning site is as much a resource for parents as it is for their kids – from creating schedules to practicing mindfulness, most of these tips can be applied to caregivers, too! Remember to be patient with your child and yourself. Talk through your emotions and give yourself a time-out to take a few breaths if you need to.

Be sure to visit the Continuity of Learning website for more helpful tips and strategies for navigating the school year at home, and in the classroom.

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