Starting Kindergarten During a Pandemic :: Managing Anxiety

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We all know that sending your little one off to kindergarten is an emotional experience. I felt like I was hanging by a little thread that first week, knowing at any moment I might burst into tears. But couple that milestone with an international pandemic complete with mask requirements, desk spacing, and limited close physical contact, and you’ve got a recipe for an all-out anxiety attack.

Thankfully Dr. Daniel S. Marullo, a Clinical Psychologist at Children’s of Alabama, is here to help us navigate this new normal. He specializes in Pediatric Psychology and Neuropsychology but also offers us moms some helpful tips, too!

Dr. Daniel S. Marullo

The Importance of Open Communication

Always begin with age appropriate information. One way we can help our children is by simply starting the conversation: “You know, I’m a little bit nervous about school starting, and I wonder if you’re a little bit scared, too.” This teaches our kids it’s okay to be scared and that it’s often helpful to talk about it.

Remind your kindergartener that everyone is new. None of their classmates have done this before, either, so they’re all in this together.

Our children pick up on our own uneasiness, but we must learn as adults to model healthy ways of coping with anxiety about returning to school and being flexible with all the potential changes they might face this school year.

Resilience is a life skill that we have the power to teach them. We can prepare our children for possible class reshuffling, substitute teachers, and even the possibility of some e-learning days. “Kids at this age just want to know they’re going to be okay,” Dr. Marullo says.

Reassure your children they will be okay by letting them know what to expect and giving them tools to be healthy. This helps them to feel safe, too.

Specific Ways to Ease the Nerves

  • talk up kindergarten around your child–make it exciting
  • drive by the new school
  • make a special date to pick out a new lunch box, backpack, and face mask
  • teach your kids good hygiene at home (getting them used to proper hand washing and hand sanitizer use) 
  • practice wearing masks around the house to build up stamina

Be Encouraged

Dr. Marullo says kindergarteners will likely do better adjusting to the new school safety protocols than older children since everything about school is new to them. They don’t have history being in a big school without wearing a mask, so they will be able to pick it up easier.

Remember, little ears hear everything we say. As moms, let’s be sure to model proper mask wearing, hand washing, and positive talk around them as much as we can.

Also remember you’re not alone. Kids are nervous, parents are nervous, and teachers are nervous, too. We’re all in this together. Here’s to the Class of 2033!

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After graduating from college, Julie worked for ten years as a paralegal and as a medical software programmer before becoming a SAHM to her and her husband's two children. Life is crazy for her these days, but a lot of Jesus and a little exercise and painting keeps her sane! When she's not editing for Birmingham Mom Collective, you can find Julie illustrating wedding gowns and heirloom keepsakes--check out her Instagram page @bridal_illustration_by_julie for more information!