Tips for addressing back-to-school concerns with your kids

This upcoming school year comes with challenges families, teachers and students have never seen before. And all this uncertainty can cause fear and anxiety in the kids if it's not addressed right away. 

According to a national survey by Nationwide Children's Hospital, 90% of parents have concerns about the upcoming school year, with nearly two in five worrying about their children's emotional health. A similar rate shows concerns about physical health such as exposure to germs and the risk of bringing the COVID-19 virus home.

"It will be hard at certain ages for them to understand, 'Why can't I hug my friends like I used to? Why do I have to sit far away from them? Why do I have to wear this mask when I'm trying to learn?'" says Dr. Parker Huston, who is with Nationwide Children's Hospital.

Behavioral health experts say parents don't have to pretend to have all the answers but instead should reassure their children no matter what the changes are they will work through it together.

"That's telling our children it's okay if we're having some distress around some of these unknowns and is helping children communicate with other people when they might need help," says Dr. Samanta Boddapati, who is also with Nationwide Children's Hospital.

Having these vital conversations early will ultimately help identify sources of anxiety before it affects their mental health.

"Don't wait until the first day of school to say, "Oh, by the way, here's your mask and you have to wear it and other people are going to be wearing it too,'" Dr. Huston says.

And no matter what the school year looks like for you, build excitement for your child. Ask what they're looking forward to and practice wearing a mask and walking to the bus stop.

"Also [discuss] things like meal times, bedtimes and even the amount of downtime or unstructured time that's allowed within the home," Dr. Boddapati says.