Did you remember to pack your face mask? How was your Zoom class? 

These are questions most people never thought they would ask their children. Needless to say, 2020 has been a year full of new experiences, and back-to-school will be different to say the least. 

Between social distancing, online education and virtual classrooms, students and parents alike are feeling the anxiety and instability of this pandemic-inspired school year. Here are some therapeutic tips to help you find your footing in these crazy times.

 

1. Control choices to create empowerment.

Parents are having to make many new and potentially uncomfortable choices regarding the upcoming school year. Based on their age, allowing children to be a part of the decision-making process through limited, safe options can help them feel empowered. This is especially important when they may be feeling helpless and things are changing rapidly. For example, instead of debating the idea of mask-wearing, allow kids to choose what color or design of mask they wear. Even a simple decision like this can foster empowerment.

 

2. Create a visual schedule to foster stability.

The importance of an organized schedule your child can see cannot be overstated. Letting children know what to expect and when to expect it helps them transition from task to task. This can be as simple as a poster on the wall showing a daily schedule in hour blocks, whether it's traditional school, online learning or home schooling). Seeing a schedule for the day is particularly helpful for children who struggle with anxiety.

The secret to success is maintaining a regular routine from the time your child wakes up, through classes, lunch break and when school is over. Visual reminders help kids stay on track with school work, prevent procrastination and reduce stress.

 

3. Set a timer to reduce stress.

Using a timer to schedule regular breaks throughout the school day ensures children have time to stretch their legs and take a mental break. This is especially helpful if breaks are scheduled in between each activity or class session. This quick pause will actually create smoother transitions. If you can manage it, shoot for creating a 10-minute break every 30-50 minutes. (Pro-tip: This is great for stressed out moms and dads too!) 

 

4. Schedule sleep for a brighter day.

Studies show the importance of regular sleep schedules. Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day resets the body’s clock in healthy physical and emotional ways, improving cognitive thinking, response times, emotional self-regulation and overall mood. 

Of course, older children and teenagers may be less likely to appreciate the value of sleep. While you can't force children to fall asleep, try adopting one or more of the following household practices to make it easier: 

  • Turn off TV and cell phones at least an hour before bedtime (or, if that’s a tough sell, update cell phone setting to “night shift”)

  • Do not eat at least two hours before bedtime

  • Use lavender scents to create a calming atmosphere

  • Dim the lights to signal a change from day to night

 

5. Brain food for brain power

Staying hydrated and eating healthy snacks like nuts and fruit help improve brain function, attention span and productivity. Conversely, sugar-filled, highly processed foods and drinks can cause drowsiness, sugar crashes, low productivity and emotional reactivity. If attention seems to be an issue, offer a piece of chewing gum to increase focus and provide a bit of relaxation during school work. 

 

All of these therapeutic tips and more are used every day at Vera Lloyd Presbyterian Family Services’ on-campus school. Vera Lloyd serves Arkansas foster children traumatized by abuse, abandonment and neglect and provides compassionate care and services to help them thrive academically, physically and emotionally. Every child benefits from a stable, loving environment where they are supported and encouraged to challenge themselves. 

On Sept. 24, join Vera Lloyd for the virtual Happiest Hour event and help heal, prepare and empower youth for brighter futures. For more information or to purchase your Zoom Lounge VIP pass, click here. You can also check out the online silent auction and story gateways, opening Sept. 23, to learn more about the issues facing children in foster care.