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Research and Innovation

Back to School: Helping Children Cope With Change

Apple on books in classroom.
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash:

Across the state and country, students and their parents are preparing for the return of the school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts at NC State offer tips to help ease the transition for parents and caregivers.

Not all children will have had the same experience during the pandemic. When they return to school ort start online classes, circumstances will change – again. An expert from North Carolina State University offers tips to help children adjust.

Navigating the changes has been like to traveling through a storm, said Adria Dunbar, an assistant professor of counselor education at NC State and a former school counselor and elementary school teacher.

“Some people don’t have a life vest, but they’re making their way; some people have lost a paddle,” she said.

Her tips for parents were:

  • Embrace the ambiguity. Parents might not be able to be as concrete about the future as they would like, but they can model how they react in flexibility, empathy and relinquishing control.
  • Emotionally prepare. Parents can talk with their children about their feelings about school, and start preparing them. Talking about their feelings can help children prepare mentally, and parents might be able to identify circumstances to help kids prepare.
  • Learn the rules, and help children learn them. Dunbar said parents can start preparing their children for new rules by learning about them, and repeating them to help kids feel confident and capable.
  • Find small ways to give kids a sense of control. Dunbar said that might mean setting up a space for learning in the house if they will be doing online learning, or allowing kids to pick out their school supplies on a shopping trip.

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