Austin: Coping with back-to-school anxiety
It’s that time of year, back to school. With that, pre-performance jitters are also here. Much like the Olympians who performed in Tokyo, back to school always comes with a mix of excitement and anxiety. So, how do we cope as families?
Here are some ideas: Talk about hopes and fears with your children. Help them (and yourself) develop a picture of both the positive and negative visions in the imagination.
This allows parents to help reinforce the positive images while also helping children to develop coping skills for the fears that are present. Topics like new teachers, new classmates and new schools are the most common. Helping kids talk through their ideas about how they can successfully navigate all of these new situations is beneficial. Sharing about times when you (as a parent) have dealt with new situations is also helpful.
Providing personal examples of overcoming uncertainty can help teach children that it’s OK to have uncertainty and that these feelings can be overcome. Opening the lines of communication regarding the thoughts and feelings of our children will help them perform as they return to school.
Back-to-school jitters are especially strong given that uncertainty has become the new normal as we live with COVID-19. Just as we were imagining a world where COVID-19 didn’t rule our everyday lives, we begin to realize that it is here to stay.
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With that, normal back-to-school uncertainty has been exacerbated. We should expect that the anxiety and fear that we’ve all experienced so many times in the last 18 months are triggered — including for children.
In order to cope with this stressor, we should remind ourselves of what we have learned. Information and preparation are extremely helpful in times of uncertainty.
Here’s what we know: Wearing masks — especially for anyone who is unvaccinated — can help prevent transmission. If you’re healthy when you get COVID-19, you’re much more likely to experience mild illness, hence now is the time to dial in your personal and family health.
Additionally, Eagle County has been a role model for vaccination, with nearly 87% of our eligible population having received vaccines. Not only is this a testament to our community’s commitment to population health, this has greatly reduced the number of people in our community who have experienced severe COVID symptoms and have been hospitalized for COVID-19 or, worse, died.
With the delta variant, and whatever will certainly come next with COVID-19, we’re still learning. As our kids jump back in school, there is continually developing information about how COVID-19 can be transmitted among the population.
Given what we know, and what we are still learning, a balanced approach is warranted in Eagle County. We must strive to continue to do what we know works: getting vaccines (for those who are eligible), maintaining healthy precautions (washing hands, practicing appropriate social distancing, getting and staying healthy), and following all local public health guidance.
Additionally, we must be flexible, open and willing to do what is best for the health of our community.
Dr. Harlan Austin is a performance optimization psychologist with Howard Head Sports Medicine.