Back to School: Navigating the “New Norm”

Back to School: Navigating the “New Norm”

There is so much going into this new 2021-2022 school year already and it has not even fully begun. For children who are returning to in-person learning, there may be anxiety overflowing far beyond just the first day jitters, and for parents there is a sense of relief but nervousness altogether as they prepare their youth for school. In whatever way you prepare there is one main question that all parents, children and even teachers are wondering about in this post-pandemic era, how do we operate in this new normal?

Many lives have been changed forever due to the COVID-19 virus and as a nation our individual lives have all been impacted in some way. Now that the nation has grasped somewhat of an idea of how to operate around the virus, families are having to make life-changing decisions about what their daily routines will look like, especially when it comes to schooling. Some are hoping to return to some familiarity from pre-COVID life, and others are still uncertain. With this decision comes also a new normal that families are having to adopt such as wearing masks throughout their day, social distancing, and vaccinations. For many, the choice has been left up to the parents and while some spectators believe that all children should return to in-person learning, some parents are uncertain about if their child will be safe in this new norm that schools across the nation are now being pressured to integrate. Whether your family decides to stay at home or return to a school building, everyone is being pushed out of their comfort zones and attempting to make decisions about what is best for their own family.

Regardless of whatever new norm you and your family may be facing this school year, there are a few tips that can alleviate some of the anxiety and stressors that may come up when deciding for your family.

  • The first step is identifying your feelings along with your family members feelings. Emotions can run rampant whenever change occurs, so it is important to check in on how your child is feeling and why. According to Dr. Julia Pederson, a pediatrician associated with Stanford Children’s Health, “One of the most important things that we can do is just be there for them and recognize how they’re feeling.” A good way to check in on your feelings and your children’s emotions about returning to school under new terms is having a family meeting. Make it fun with creating a talking stick or wand and have each one of your family members take turns sharing their feelings.
  • The second step when learning how to operate with change is acknowledging that change can be hard. Discussing openly about what changes the family will be inserting into the already set day-to-day is helpful. It shows unity as a family and gives your children the opportunity to voice their opinions and offer their own suggestions. Children often mimic what they see, so it’s important that as the parent you demonstrate the new changes such as wearing a mask in public areas.
  • The third and last step is to make sure to still incorporate fun when making changes. Bringing in new things that have never been done before can be uncomfortable, so crafting in fun will offer some relief. Create a reward chart or a game that you can play with your children to help reflect the practice of the new tasks or duties that everyone is responsible for as a family.

Change is scary, newness can be daunting, and the unknown can bring on anxiety, so make it a priority to start these few steps as a preventive measure. Take one day at a time and have a fun and safe school year.

Reference: Mantz, Annalise. (2021). How to Prepare Your Kids to Go Back to School in Person This Fall, According to a Pediatrician. Popsugar. Family paid for Stanford Children’s Health. Retrieved from

Resource: A New Norm written by Tom Roberts, illustrated by Jim Brummond