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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee Magazine

Taking the Stress Out of Going Back to School

Sep 30, 2021 08:30AM ● By Sheila Julson

Teresa Humphrey

For the past year-plus, school has looked a lot different for most children. As our autumn back-to-school customs gradually return to normal, kids might worry if their friendship network will still be in place, or if they will get sick.

Teresa Humphrey has worked with children and teens for decades as a pediatric nurse and as an intuitive life coach. She emphasizes that children need to understand that anxiety is a normal response when there is change or disruption in their regular routines.

“Let them know there’s nothing wrong with them. This is all a big change, and it’s normal to feel uncomfortable,” Humphrey advises.

In addition, parents can teach children to practice slow deep-breathing or other relaxation techniques. “Breathing is something they can do any time or any where,” Humphrey says. “When feeling anxiety, slow deep-breathing will help them feel grounded and decrease stress response.”

Cloud gazing—lying on a blanket on the grass while watching the clouds and looking at the sky—encourages children to feel relaxed and balanced. Humphrey notes that whether a child is looking for cloud shapes or just watching them go by, it is a distraction because it is something different. It also encourages open communication so kids can talk about how they’re feeling, or just talk about their school day.

Allow time for exercise and physical activity, but do not over-schedule. “That can be detrimental. They need time to just be. That doesn’t mean to avoid group sports, but be sure to allow kids plenty of time for creativity and to just do whatever they enjoy doing.”

Children can choose a small, smooth stone or a special object that they can carry in their pocket, and when uncomfortable, they can hold on to it as an anchor. “It’s like having a special helper in your pocket,” Humphrey says. Parents can also put notes of encouragement or little surprises in a child’s backpack or lunch bag to brighten their days.

Kids can distract themselves from feelings of discomfort by approaching a child who also looks uncomfortable and might need a friend. If your child will be attending a new school, try to arrange an outdoor get-together with other kids, as well as a walking tour of the new school.

Depending on their age, children might not always feel comfortable talking to a parent about their anxieties. Arrange to have another trusted adult—an aunt, neighbor, former teacher or life coach who is not as emotionally invested in the child—be available to talk. “It’s helpful for the child to know there is one person who likes and respects them, and will support them no matter what,” Humphrey concludes.

Teresa Humphrey is a certified life coach offering services for children and adults at the Center for Well-Being, 301 Cottonwood Ave., in Hartland, and throughout the Greater Milwaukee area. For more information, call 414-243-9851.