RVH Clinical psychologist urges parents to be careful about back-to-school anxiety

Dr. Gwen Jenkins says children are little sponges and are going to soak up the anxiety

Have you had the talk yet with your children? The talk about back-to-school and all the new safety protocols your kids will be introduced to when they return to the classroom. For children who ride the school bus, there will also be change.

The return to school in September is always an anxious time for parents and children, but it is also filled with anticipation, and an opportunity for kids to reconnect with classmates they may not have seen over the summer.

In this era of COVID-19, there has been plenty of disconnect because of physical distancing and social bubbles. Schools have been closed since March.

Dr. Gwen Jenkins, a clinical psychologist at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre in Barrie, feels it’s important the enthusiasm kids might have for the return to school not be dampened by parents who are anxious about COVID-19.

“For the most I think it’s parents who seem to be most anxious,” Jenkins point out. “It would be really helpful if parents can seek some kind of external support for that. Children are little sponges and they are going to soak up their parents anxiety. If parents are anxious, that’s going to put a damper on children going back to school and some of the benefits.”

Jenkins does not dismiss the anxiety parents are feeling, nor for that matter, if children are worried about the new school year. She wants parents to learn and validate those concerns their children might have and talk about it.

“Children should know what to expect, but only within the context of all of the protocols they’ve already been living with the past few months.”

Jenkins notes the safety measures kids will be introduced to in the classroom are really no different to what they have already been experiencing.

“They are well versed in protocols like wearing masks, hand washing, social distancing and bubbles.”

No matter how many protocols are put in place at school, there will be opportunities for kids to find a way to hang out, especially youth.

“The majority of youth I have come in contact with are respectful and aware they can bring COVID home and they don’t want to impact people in their bubbles and families.” said Jenkins.