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How parents can help kids who are  hesitant about returning to school
Photo by Taylor Wilcox on Unsplash

It's hard to believe that summer is almost over and the back-to-school season is right around the corner. The school year is approaching fast and since many kids have been home pandemic schooling for the past year and a half the return of "normal" is likely to bring kids and parents alike some anxiety about what the return to school will look like.

We have all been living through an extended trauma and this past year has impacted us in ways that we may not even realize—and we may not come to realize the scale in which we have been altered for years to come. Just as we have been learning to cope and navigate the world during a global pandemic, so have our children. They've been expected to perform at pre-pandemic levels for quite some time; this doesn't negate their very real reality of pandemic life.

Kids have had to readjust socially, and in many children this has caused a loss of social skills and increase in social anxiety. With school quickly approaching and the push for schools to open back to full capacity, it's completely normal to have heightened anxiety around the traditional opening of schools. How we handle this anxiety and prepare our children for their own challenges can make all the difference between having a rocky start to an already stressful new school year.



Checking in with your child on their feelings about returning to school should be the first step. Find out what their comfort level is and what they expect school to look like when they return. Then do some research to find out if the school's Covid policy for this year will allow your child's expectations to be met or if you need to help your child reexamine their expectations with the reality of the school district's policy.

Every school district likely has its own rules. Some may be requiring masks and social distancing, while others may be going back to pre-pandemic schooling, taking their chances without masks, trusting that families will do what's best for them. It's hard to say which schools will follow the CDC guidelines and which ones won't, so it's important to be informed about what your child's school is doing and evaluate your family's comfort level.

Practice some conversation starters. Especially if your child is generally shy or has developed some social anxiety. Masks make it more difficult to read facial expressions, and the traditional way of showing you're friendly or happy with something someone said is obscured. Having some phrases to pull out in a pinch may help your child feel more at ease in the school setting. These things don't have to be anything in depth, but the discussion about the possibility of a compliment helping to break the ice can calm an anxious child who may not have been in the physical classroom for an extended period of time.

It can be helpful to look at the things your child can control if hesitancy to return to the classroom is high. In a school setting this can get a little tricky, but if the school does not require masks and your child is more comfortable wearing a mask, that is something they can absolutely control. They can wear a mask. They can carry hand sanitizer and travel disinfectant wipes. They can also look to create their trusted group of friends to keep in their safe bubble. These would be the friends that are adhering closely to the personal guidelines that your child is most comfortable with. This will allow them to continue to socialize in and out of school, which will help with feelings of social isolation, depression and anxiety.

At the end of the day, school is coming back in a traditional way whether we are ready or not, so ensuring your child is prepared as best they can be will help decrease the stress surrounding the return. Introducing coping skills that kids can do from their desks in the event that their anxiety peaks is one of the most helpful preparation tools you can provide. Tools like deep breathing, grounding techniques such as the 5-4-3-2-1 method, a small stress ball, or a piece of felt with a calming scent sprayed on it that they can pull out and smell are all easy and helpful. Practicing these things before the first day of school will help it become easier for children to do if and when they need to center themselves. They're also helpful outside of the classroom for anyone who may be experiencing anxiety or stress.

The return of school is stressful during normal times, but even more so now. As parents, we can do our best to not only prepare our children through conversations and introducing new skills, but we can give them more of a leg up by modeling the skills they can use when possible. Kids are more likely to do what they see, and if they see you using the skills you're teaching them, they're more likely to use them when you're not around.

Jacalyn Wetzel, MSW, LCSW is a licensed clinical social worker and therapist as well as a mom herself.

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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Hold on, Frankie! Mama's coming!

How do you explain motherhood in a nutshell? Thanks to Cait Oakley, who stopped a preying bald eagle from capturing her pet goose as she breastfed her daughter, we have it summed up in one gloriously hilarious TikTok.

The now viral video shows the family’s pet goose, Frankie, frantically squawking as it gets dragged off the porch by a bald eagle—likely another mom taking care of her own kiddos.

Wearing nothing but her husband’s boxers while holding on to her newborn, Willow, Oakley dashes out of the house and successfully comes to Frankie's rescue while yelling “hey, hey hey!”

The video’s caption revealed that the Oakleys had already lost three chickens due to hungry birds of prey, so nothing was going to stop “Mama bear” from protecting “sweet Frankie.” Not even a breastfeeding session.

Oakley told TODAY Parents, “It was just a split second reaction ...There was nowhere to put Willow down at that point.” Sometimes being a mom means feeding your child and saving your pet all at the same time.

As for how she feels about running around topless in her underwear on camera, Oakley declared, “I could have been naked and I’m like, ‘whatever, I’m feeding my baby.’”

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