Sure, parents may find themselves feeling a bit relieved, but for the kids it can be a time of high anxiety.By John Shumway

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — While they may be coming at a strange time of year, the first day of school jitters are very real in several local school districts returning to their classrooms for the first time this year.

Sure, parents may find themselves feeling a bit relieved, but for the kids it can be a time of high anxiety.

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Dr. Allison Bashe is a Psychologist and the Clinical Director for New Directions Counseling Services.

She says those concerns could have roots in several places.

“The most important thing you can do when someone shares a concern is to validate how the person is feeling, meet them where there are.” In other words don’t dismiss your child fears with a quick ‘Oh, you’ll be okay.’

Dr. Bashe says, “Sometimes we rush too quickly to say it’s going to be okay or here’s what you can do to make it better. And we skip over the really important part, which is just saying, Yes, I understand. I know that you’re scared. This is hard. Acknowledging those fears actually helps us get past them a little more quickly.”

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She says children naturally feel they are totally at the mercy of everyone else and a conversation about their concerns or fears is a chance to turn that around.

“By just letting them know that they have control over some of the measures they can take to keep themselves safe, and to reduce that anxiety. You know, we know wearing masks, keeping some distance, washing your hands. Those are the things we know we can do and we have control over those things.”

It also helps to handle the return to class as if it was at the end of summer break. “What are the routines putting the clothes out the day before, packing lunches, just getting back into some normal routines can be really helpful. Bed times wake times. Those are really important things we can do to help create some normalcy.”

While preschool jitters are normal, in this situation Dr. Bashe says you need to probe a little. “Find out more about it, because then you can figure out is this about COVID is this is just about who I’m going to sit with at lunch. Is it about, you know I haven’t seen my friends in a while, are they still gonna want to hang out with me. Once you find out what the fears are, then you can move into addressing those fears.”

And if the worries are about COVID, “The best thing we can do as parents, in general is to project, positive attitudes, our confidence in our kids and ourselves and our teachers and our schools and our districts, I think, in our community at large. I think that confidence and positivity. That’s what’s going to get us through this.”

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While that may mean overcoming your own concerns to give your child confidence to get on the school bus, Dr. Bashe says to remember that inter-school transmissions are low and for their education and mental health, getting back into the classroom is in their best interest.