Tips for Managing Uncertainty & The Return to School

2021 School Year Uncertainty

It seems like just yesterday we were congratulating ourselves on making it through the 2020-2021 school year. Now, a brand-new school year is already here. Like August of 2020, this August brings some unknowns. Adults and children are feeling excited, nervous, relieved, maybe even anxious as we head back to school. 


“Expect the unexpected” is still the most reliable advice!

With that in mind, here are some supportive ideas and strategies for parents to consider now from our psychology team: 

  • Some learning loss is expected for many children. Even so, it’s important to keep worries about your school-age child “being behind” in perspective—the truth is that all children, families, and schools have been impacted, stressed, and disrupted like never before. The idea of what is typical or expected for each grade level is likely to adjust quite a bit.
  • The return to an academic “normal” is going to take time. It may even take more than one school year. 
  • Remember that children watch us (the adults around them) for hints about how to feel and act. They tend to copy our moods, body language, and words. Just like last year, try to model a positive attitude and flexibility in new situations! 
  • When you find yourself feeling overly frustrated and not-so-flexible (when yet another unplanned change is announced), make an effort to vent privately to other adults and out of earshot of the kids. 
  • When your child expresses sadness, you can say, “It’s okay to feel sad and disappointed about ___ or to miss ___” and agree that this is a difficult time. Help your child name what he/she is feeling. 
  • Listen and reassure. Exact answers may not be possible, but you can still help your child feel heard. Right now, reassurance may not sound like the standard “Don’t worry, everything is fine!” It could sound something like, “Yes, I can understand why you’re worried about ___. I worry about that too sometimes. Let’s think of some little things we can do today to keep that worry from taking over.” 
  • Think about the daily things that you and your child can control and offer as many choices as possible. This could be as simple as choosing colors for back-to-school supplies! Feeling in control of one small area of life helps us manage our feelings when other areas feel scary and unpredictable.


Last, we do know that the pandemic, as it looks today, will not last forever.

Through these experiences, we are gaining new skills and unimaginable levels of adaptability. Because of all we navigated last year, we start this season much better equipped and prepared in comparison. Every new school year has its own challenges to overcome. We will support each other through this one, too!


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