Back to the classroom: A game plan for reducing anxiety

THE RECORDER

recorder@portervillerecorder.com

Back-to-school supplies were a bit different this year for 12-year-old Audrey.

Along with a day planner, an array of pens and a thick notebook, Audrey added face masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.

“I’m not sure how it’s going to completely work,” said Audrey of her middle school in Southern California. “How many kids are going to be in each classroom? Are we going to have a table where we sit together?”

Audrey, like many across the country, spent the last school year in a virtual classroom interacting with other students and teachers only via a computer screen. Going back to in-person learning with potential restrictions only added to her anxiety.

Benjamin, a Visalia high school teacher, observes many students are eager to return to the classroom, but some feel overwhelmed. “The unknown creates a lot of anxiety,” he said, mentioning mask-wearing, dealing with deaths and illness in the family, and the possibility of another shutdown as common sources.

That's just the situation that we're in. Students, parents, teachers, administrators — everybody is caught off guard. We have to keep on being flexible and pushing forward,” Benjamin said. To further help their children with this difficult transition, Benjamin recommends open communication with teachers and urges parents to “spend more time with their kids and help them emotionally.”

Audrey’s parents, John and Michelle, email teachers with questions and regularly talk with Audrey about her day. They also designate every Saturday afternoon as family time. As Jehovah’s Witnesses, they look for practical Bible-based advice to help with any issues or concerns.

“We review how to display Christian qualities such as love and patience and have role-playing sessions to listen to how Audrey would react to stressful or dangerous situations,” said John. “This has helped Audrey feel confident about returning to school.”

While coronavirus variants have amplified pandemic anxieties, Audrey’s parents have endeavored not to overlook other challenges their daughter may face.

One of their favorite resources is jw.org, the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses that's free to all. Topics like “What’s a Real Friend?” and “Beat a Bully Without Using Your Fists” are addressed there in a video series for young people Audrey recommends to everyone.

The website has some really cool information that has helped me prepare for back to school,” Audrey said. “I think it can really benefit any student who is nervous about going back. They should really check it out!”

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