How to Talk to Kids about Back to School

BACK-TO-SCHOOL Health & Wellness Top of the List
By: Meredith Witthar | Kristina Guerrero Posted: 5:22 PM, Jul 28, 2022 Updated: 7:55 AM, Jul 29, 2022

With everything going on in the world it can be a scary time to think about kids going back to school. It’s a lot to process and children of all ages are sure to be having a tough time with the anxiety they might be feeling. So how do you talk about it? Well, we spoke with David Schonfeld, the Director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, who is guiding us through how to have the conversation about back to school.

First – Recognize That These Talks Need To Happen

“If we don’t talk to children about it, if we don’t raise the conversation after it’s been talked about so broadly in the media, then children are likely to have heard about it but also noticed that we are not discussing it,” he says. By not saying something, we’re actually saying a lot. “It says either you’re completely uninformed yourself, or you do know what’s going on, but you don’t want to, or you’re not able to talk about it.”
The time to talk is now. Raising these concerns ahead of time allows space to process the information and have a meaningful conversation instead of rushing it amidst the back-to-school chaos.

Next – Starting The Conversation

It’s essential to recognize that your children have different concerns than you do. For example: maybe most of your worries surround inflation and its economic impact. But your kids? They could be worried about having enough money for school lunches or being able to get a new backpack. You can’t reassure them until you know what their concerns are.
“As you start talking with older children, the amount of information that they’re going to want to know, the questions that they’re going to ask about why it occurred, the explanations that will be satisfactory to them about what impact this has, they’re going to be more sophisticated as they get older,” he shares. It’s okay to not have all the answers; the critical thing here is to listen and do your best.

Lastly – Learning To Cope

The reality is that upsetting and bad things happen. Our children look to us to model behavior to teach them how to deal with these feelings instead of pretending they don’t exist.
“What you’re doing is you’re saying; this is what concerned me. This is how I deal with the concern. Not that I’m not concerned, but rather this is how I cope with the concern,” David advises. After you’ve talked, you can limit media exposure, so they don’t have to continuously hear and see more about the upsetting events. David says it’s normal for kids to be upset. Still, if it continues for several days or they can’t overcome their feelings of anxiety, it’s time to seek outside help from a school guidance counselor or mental health professional.
“I made it clear to my kids that if something’s bothering you, I want to hear it. And that started at a young age, but it’s continued into their adulthood.”