Back to the classroom: A game plan for reducing anxiety

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For Beauty, a Bronx mother with two children getting ready to return to school, preparations this year were a little bit different. Besides gathering the usual materials, such as laptop, pens, pencils and markers, Beauty and her children also needed to think about the danger of COVID-19 and what to expect from a new routine. For this family, this is the first time back to in-person education in nearly 17 months.

“This is going to be my first time back in the building for classes,” said her son Roberts, reflecting on how unfamiliar he will be with his school.

Roberts’ sister Harmony faces a similar situation. “I’m not really familiar with the school yet,” she said, “and I’m very nervous because I’m not sure where all my classes are.” In addition to being concerned about her new environment, Harmony is also concerned about being too close to the other children.

Roberts and Harmony, like many across the country, spent the last school year in a virtual classroom interacting with other students and teachers only via a computer screen. Going back to in-person learning with potential restrictions has created unique challenges.

Paul Ramnath, an early childhood educator in the Bronx, affirmed that students this year will be facing unprecedented challenges, especially in view of the fact that many will now be attending school physically for the first time in more than a year.

“Learning how to work along with others in a classroom might be a challenge socially-emotionally,” he said.

But parents can help their children to face this tough transition.

“Reach out to your child’s teacher,” said Ramnath. He also recommended that parents take advantage of the various communication platforms that teachers utilize. Some teachers, he said, share their phone numbers with parents so that they can text at any time. “Communication — keep it open,” he said.

Beauty shares her children’s concerns for the coming year. She plans to follow them to school the first day, and intends to get on the telephone with teachers as soon as possible to check in. As one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Beauty also looks to Bible-based principles that she believes will help her children through the year to come.

Roberts and Harmony both have favorite scriptures in mind that have lessened their anxiety about the return to school. One of Harmony’s favorites is found in the book of Proverbs and encourages her to trust God in all things. “This scripture helps me whenever I’m feeling anxious, especially since I’m going back to school in less than two weeks,” she said.

While coronavirus variants have stoked pandemic anxieties, Beauty has endeavored not to overlook other challenges her children may face.

One of their favorite resources is jw.org, the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses that is free to all. Roberts mentioned a publication called “Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work,” which is available as a free download on the site. “That’s been helpful because there have been many chapters that have to do with me,” he said.

Roberts added that this publication has helped him to develop habits which will help him in school. “One particular chapter I liked was ‘How Can I Manage My Time?’” he said, commenting that studying this material has helped him to balance his recreation with other important things in his life.

For more information, please contact Jehovah’s Witnesses United States at (718) 560-5600 or pid@jw.org.

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