Rev. Estelle Margarones
There are 12 school teachers in my family, ranging from pre-K to the university level, so it’s not really a surprise that the upcoming school year is a hot topic of conversation in my family right now. Given all of the implications surrounding children going back to school, it’s not really a surprise that this is also a hot topic among my clergy colleagues.
If you have children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or neighbors who have children; I suspect that you will also soon find yourself in an active conversation about the upcoming school year. While there are a lot of things for which we don’t have answers, we can each help alleviate anxiety for the children in our circles. The following are some tips for preparing them for the school year. (By the way, these tools will also be beneficial for adults facing the unknown.)
Tips for Alleviating Back to School Stress:
Ask children what they’re wondering about. Validate that changes to the ways we’ve done things are challenging. Remind them that sometimes when we try something new, it’s hard the first time, but it gets easier with time.
Share what will stay the same about the school year.
Be calm. Focus on the positives. Explain things in age appropriate ways.
Have a routine, but be flexible.
When anxiety presents, you can use the STAR technique: Stop, Think, Act, & Reflect
Know that feelings aren’t right or wrong. In speaking with children, you can say that sometimes we talk about our feelings and sometimes we keep them inside, but when we keep them inside for too long, they can end up hurting us.
You may want to share your own feelings (in age appropriate ways) to model sharing so that your child/ren will also then share theirs.
Let children know that God is always ready to listen. Prayer is how we speak to God.
Children can keep a gratitude journal or feelings journal, or even draw their feelings.
At dinnertime or bedtime, you can have a daily debrief of highs and lows. Some folks use “Pits, Peaks, Praise, & Prayers”
Affirm their efforts when they overcome their worries.
**As we draw ever closer to the day schools reopen, we will invite our entire church into prayer for our youth, parents, grandparents, teachers, administrators, bus drivers, custodians, lunch folks, school nurses, guidance counselors, and all who help our youth! Keep your eyes on this space for a special community prayer in the upcoming weeks.
Proverbs 4:1-13 Hear, O sons, a father's instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain[a] insight,2 for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching. 3 When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, 4 he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live. 5 Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. 7 The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. 8 Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. 9 She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.” 10 Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many. 11 I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness. 12 When you walk, your step will not be hampered, and if you run, you will not stumble. 13 Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.
Proverbs 12:25 An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.
Psalm 34:4 I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.
Together, we can bring Christ's word and work to the world.