Resilience and Adaptability: Help Your Kids Make the Most of the New School Year |

Resilience and Adaptability: Help Your Kids Make the Most of the New School Year

Resilience and Adaptability: Help Your Kids Make the Most of the New School Year

By Mary Beth TeSelle, Special to The Union

Many kids in our area will be returning to school this week, kicking off another school year. While this time of year can be challenging for many families even under the best of circumstances, the pandemic has heightened the stress level for many. And unfortunately, that stress can often trickle down to our kids.

“We have definitely seen an increase in emotional problems in our youth,” says Dr. Joyce Czuprynski, pediatrician with Sierra Care Pediatrics in Grass Valley. “This is very likely related to not only the isolation of the pandemic and stress of online schooling last year, but also because children pick up easily on parental and adult stresses. Seeing the 24-hour news cycle about covid-related problems, political issues, and even recent fire-related events creates a lot of adult stress and this clearly filters down to our children.”

Dr. Czuprynski says there are steps we can take to help reduce the anxiety and worry our children are experiencing, beginning with being accessible to them and paying attention to their emotional cues.

“As parents it’s important to listen to our children’s concerns,” she explains. “We need to empathize with them, letting them know we are listening and trying to understand how they feel.”

Dr. Czuprynski recommends asking open-ended questions, about how they feel about going back to school; what worries them; if they notice friends struggling; or if there is anything you, as a parent, can do to help them feel comfortable going back to school.

“Children may experience more anxiety than usual when returning to school this year after such a socially and academically challenging year last year,” she says. “They may not feel socially prepared to interact in large, sometimes noisy, groups again. Some children may have a lot of anxiety about getting Covid after seeing so much news about it over the last year.”

Sometimes children experience physical complaints that are actually related to anxiety. These may include headaches, stomachaches, fatigue, and change in appetite.

“It’s good to identify these symptoms early and make sure there is not a medical reason for them to be happening,” Dr. Czuprynski says. “Parents can help their child understand their body and how it deals with stress and anxiety and find ways to cope – like physical activity or exercise, social interaction with peers, hobbies, meditations, and talking about how they are feeling to someone close to them.”

Parents should also not hesitate to look into the mental health and counseling services available to help kids at both public and private schools.

“Check out your school’s website and become familiar with names and faces and how to contact their mental health professionals,” Dr. Czuprynski advises. “Some services may be in person and there are a lot still available virtually.”

In addition, Dr. Czuprynski also reminds parents that many of the typical back-to-school behavioral problems can be solved by simply helping your child get more sleep.

“Many kids have difficulty adjusting to earlier bedtimes and earlier morning awakening,” she says. “We suggest inching the bedtime back to a reasonable time gradually, especially for teens. If a teenager is used to going to bed after midnight and sleeping well into the afternoon, try to turn the bedtime back by 30 to 60 minutes each day to achieve a more reasonable bedtime.”

Older children and teens should aim for a solid eight to nine hours a night, while younger kids need ten to 12 hours every night.

“Children who lack enough sleep frequently have difficulty concentrating during the day,” Dr. Czuprynski says. “Chronic sleep deprivation is a big problem in older children and teens and exacerbates anxiety and depression greatly.”

Finally, Dr. Czuprynki recommends that everyone in the family – kids and parents – try to start the year with a good attitude.

“Last year was hard on everyone – kids, parents, teachers, everyone. But teaching our kids resiliency and how to adapt can be an amazing lesson to come out of this difficult situation.”

Help Your Kids Get Fueled for School

Dr. Czuprynski encourages parents to take time to make sure your child is well-fueled for school, including a good breakfast (see recipe below for one idea).

“Find something that is easy to prep and easy to eat so the morning meal does not add to the stress of the day,” Dr. Czrypskin says. “This might be some yogurt with fruit, a healthy granola type bar, a smoothie maybe even made the night before… Leftovers are great go to rush morning meals. Also make sure your child has some lunch and snacks ready to grab on the way out the door, ideally prepped the night before, keep it simple and throw in some fruits or veggies and a little protein for energy.”

Kids should also have access to plenty of water throughout the day. Dr. Czuprynski recommends every child carry a sturdy, fun water bottle filled with cold water (add a little fruit for fun!) to prevent the sluggishness and headaches that can come with dehydration.

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