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Back to School and Ready for Healthy Learning

Going ‘back to school’ isn’t what it used to be. Even if you were that kid who couldn’t wait for the new school year to begin, September 2021 is hot on the heals of a disjointed and inconsistent hybrid year, which followed the March, 2019 COVID learning interruption.

We’re here to help you ease into a successful new school year.

Last month Spectrum Health brought together a panel of experts for a virtual webinar called “Re-pack the Backpack: How to Help Your Kids to Have a Great School Year.”

Derek Baker, principal of Sweet Home Middle School, Gina Volanis, Spectrum Health’s Director of Emergency Services, Christine Ziemba, Spectrum Health’s Coordinator of NY Project Hope, and Melodie Baker, National Policy Director of Just Equations offered sound advice for parents and teachers on how to cope with stress and anxiety about going back to school.

It’s a lively and enlightening 45-minutes (watch it here).

Here are some highlights:

Derek Baker said schools (and parents/guardians) are like AAA Emergency Responders for students.

  • Advocate for your child. Know your districts policies and understand what is different this year.
  • Accommodate your child’s needs. Visit the classroom to know what it looks like and where the other spaces in the school. Know what other supportive services your district offers.
  • Availability is your key to understanding what’s happening with your child. Make time for meaningful and intimate conversations about how your child’s day is going.

Remember that children, parents, and teachers are all going through the same changes, with similar fears and questions and anxieties.  Parents know their kids best and can pick up if something is “off” before anyone else: take action sooner than later if so.

Teachers, when you leave your building, go home and love your families. “Our job is to lead with love,” he said. “Make your family time scared. That’s the only time you are healthy and whole.

Gina Volanis said to get students back into a normal schedule and routine, with a regular, earlier bedtime and consistent wake up time in the morning. Even  when kids grumble, they thrive in consistency.

Take the time to talk to your kids daily and check in on their feelings. “We’re all struggling now,” she said.

Look out for changes in your child’s behavior that could indicate depression or struggles. Changes in socializing with friends or siblings, different eating habits, not wanting to leave bed or bedroom are signs: reach out for help from the school counselor or call Spectrum Health C.A.R.E.S. for help.

Christine Ziemba, Spectrum Health’s Coordinator for NY Project Hope reminds parents of a good night’s sleep…for everyone! “Have a healthy, good night’s sleep to have a good day ahead.”

Melodie Baker, National Director of Policy for Just Equations and a mom of five said that putting kids on a schedule and having time for yourself at night makes you a better mother. “Great parents with good mental health create stable children,” she said.

The experts agree that re-entry anxiety – that fear of getting back to what was our former normal – can be significant. Parents, teachers, and school districts working together can help students overcome their fears and embrace learning again.

Need other resources?

NY Project Hope has online resources and locally, and Spectrum Health offers free Mindfulness sessions every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday that can help center your thoughts in a positive place.

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