Back-to-School Time: Social-Emotional Prep

Young girls with backpacks on holding hands and smiling

Back-to-School Time: Social-Emotional Prep

August 24, 2021 • ByLiz Kuhn Tomka, LCSW

It’s back-to-school time during a year like no other. Beyond the typical nervousness and anxiety that may come with starting the school year, beyond the typical shopping trip for school supplies and clothes, this year requires extra preparation and grace. Informed and engaged caregivers and predictable routines will set the foundation for a positive adjustment to the school year.

Allow space for youth to express their perspective prior to starting school.

  • Invite the conversation for youth to voice their worries and stressors
  • Invite the conversation for youth to name what they’re excited about as well
  • Encourage journaling or artistic expression
  • Normalize and validate feelings
  • Acknowledge additional stressors of pandemic

Emphasize and engage their support system.

  • Education Resource Coordinator/Post-Secondary Options Coordinator
  • Advocate, Therapist, Treatment Team
  • Identify 1-2 teachers available for check-ins throughout the day
  • School Counselor or Social Worker
  • Family

Establish and practice new routines and rhythms to support success.

  • Practice new sleep schedule prior to starting school
  • Establish new morning routine and create a morning checklist
  • Review school schedule, leave and return times
  • Establish new study time routine
  • Carve out time for recreation and down time
  • Discuss the need for flexibility should there be a need to quarantine

Expect some difficulties with adjustments and acclimating energy levels.

  • Expect some bumps in the road as youth adjust to in-person social interactions
  • Encourage youth to express themselves in healthy and appropriate ways
  • Work on building up stamina for a new routine, which may require more energy than remote learning—getting up earlier, commute, more social interactions, etc.

Maintain health and safety as a priority.

  • Recognize efforts in place to keep youth healthy
  • Review masking, physical distancing, handwashing/disinfecting expectations while commuting and at school
  • Discuss potential reasons for needing to quarantine
  • Allow space for youth to ask questions

Allow time for caregiver check-in and reflection as you find new rhythms.

  • Calm and connected teams will be more effective in navigating this transition
  • Check in about how you’re doing as a team
  • With youth at school during the day, reflect on how your day/shift will look different than it has been
  • Communicate with your team about how this change in routine may impact your energy level, vibe of the milieu, team roles, etc.
  • Recognize areas where you may need support from your coworkers as you adjust
  • Be open and solicit feedback from one another and youth as changes take place
  • Be kind to yourself and ensure you have a self-care routine.  With your bucket full, you can pour into others and remain present, engaged and active with the youth and team.

Education gives our kids the opportunity to build a brighter future. Your gift will help them get there.

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