How Families Can Prepare for the Newfound Stress of Returning to School

Principles of attunement can help your family feel grounded as you settle into the school year routine


Photo by James Wheeler on Unsplash

As children and young adults return to school this month, emotions may be mixed. On one hand, parents usually express some sense of relief from the return of reliable child care. Kids are excited and nervous to meet up with old friends and hopeful about the possibility of new friendships and activities they can join. But this year brings continued stress from the 2020 school year, as the COVID delta variant surges among communities across America. School systems are grappling with mask mandate battles, leaving some families questioning both their safety and rights as guardians. Youth and parents alike continue to struggle with ways to navigate conversations around social distancing, mask wearing, and vaccines, especially as guidelines from the CDC adjust with the science of how easily this variant can be transmitted.

For tips on encouraging friends and family members to get the COVID vaccine, especially as your child’s social interactions increase, check out our previous Medium post for explicit guidelines. For families in general, here are some ways to combat the anxiety and stress around increasing your exposure to others as children return to school:

Meet each family member where they are

While some members of your immediate family or core social network may feel extremely anxious about returning to school and the uncertainty of mask mandates, others may not seem as concerned. While some people’s apparent lack of concern could increase your own stress if you are very concerned, take a deep breath as you remember that each person deserves space to feel how they feel. As parents, create multiple opportunities for conversation about the return back to school, by meeting each child where they are. Whether they are outwardly showing signs of anxiety or fear (for example, crying or showing irritability, clinginess, low mood, restlessness, behavioral outbursts, stomach aches) or not, make time to join them in an activity they enjoy or a generally calming activity (e.g., going on a walk, listening to music, drawing, playing a game). Jumping right into asking them…



Ashley Pallathra and Edward Brodkin

Co-authors of the new book “Missing Each Other: How to Cultivate Meaningful Connections.” Twitter: @ashleypallathra @tedbrodkin