In this guide, compiled by WRDSB Psychological Services, you’ll find resources to help parents and caregivers support and communicate with their children in ways that help them feel calm and secure as they return to school. While some of these suggestions will be particularly helpful in setting the stage for the “return-to-school” phase, they also reflect strategies that can be helpful on an ongoing basis. For example, parents will find information about the cycle of anxiety and school avoidance, as well as how the words we use may lower or increase anxiety.

View this guide as a PDF.

Setting the Stage for Return to School

Setting the tone

In the best of times, returning to school after the summer break can be hard. In light of the extended school closure, the return to school in the fall might pose a few more challenges. Caregivers and children may have many questions, thoughts and mixed feelings about the idea of returning to school.

Finding the way forward together involves setting a calm tone of optimism and adaptability.

Helpful Information and Suggestions

Psychological Services staff have put together some ideas and suggestions to guide parents as they think about the return to school, how to talk to their children about it, and how to support their children to return.

Time to change the message

As families prepare for the return to school, it is a good time to rethink and change the messages we give children. The words we use can be an important ingredient in helping children feel calm and secure.

Managing the “alarm system”

Changing the message may also help when it comes to managing the natural “alarm system” all humans have, which alerts us to possible danger. Moving toward the use of “Calm Language” and away from the language of fear and safety will benefit children.

When adults feel prepared and can communicate calmly and with confidence, they can help children feel calm and secure.

Guiding Questions

The extended school closure has been a new experience for everyone. Naturally, parents will have questions about how children will adapt to being back at school.

How we frame questions sets the tone for the approach adults will take, the strategies they will use, and the confidence parents will feel when releasing their children’s care to educators at school. Deborah MacNamara, psychologist, helped to re-frame some important questions in her video, “Leading Our Kids Back to School.”

We have summarized some of her guiding questions and suggestions for you in this resource.

  • Will our kids feel secure?
  • What can I do if my child feels nervous?
  • What will children need to help them adapt?
  • What conditions are needed to support learning?

Helping children face something scary

Even at the best of times, some children have more trouble than other children when it comes to going to school. This resource includes information that will help parents and caregivers understand more about the nature of anxiety and the problem with avoiding scary things.

Caregivers and educators together

We want caregivers to know that they are not alone when it comes to helping children with the return to school. When needed, educators and school board staff members from psychology and social work may connect with caregivers and parents to help children overcome fears about things such as going to school.