Welcome to the “5 P’s for
Back to School I-CAN-demic
by Samantha Woods - August, 2020

The escalating anxiety of parents, teachers and students heading back to school was brewing even before the Alberta Minister of Education, and our lovely Dr. Hinshaw made their announcements about mandatory masking in schools.  Now, the anticipatory anxiety is intensely brewing, stewing and even bubbling! However, with practical coaching from the significant adults in their lives, our children (no matter the age!)  can begin to alleviate “back to school jitters.” Without a doubt, we all want our masked kids to walk through the sanitized doors in September feeling confident, calm, and in control, no matter the terrain. How we choose to stick handle this will determine how our children can cope.


Here are some specific coaching tips that parents & caregivers can begin to gradually implement sooner, rather than later, to support their children in navigating these uncertain and uncomfortable times. I recommend starting these steps two-ish’ weeks before the first day of classes.


(Interestingly, as I reflect on the tips I have provided, I realize they align almost perfectly with our session plan on “test-taking skills.” Perhaps, THIS is the time to consider how executive skills can be coached, strengthened,  and then applied to real-life situations. LIFE IS A TEST).


PREPARE Work through possible scenarios. Chat about what the school day may look like, feel like, and how it is going to be different. Ask for your child’s input and listen to what they have to say. Build a plan together.

PLAN. Back to school shopping may look a little different this year. Find out the school’s specific plan as soon as you can and share this with your child. Remind them that the greatest of ideas sometimes need to change based on new information—model flexibility in thinking and outward compassion for teachers and support staff.

PRACTICE Masks feel weird, especially to kids with heightened senses. Wearing a mask for a few minutes/hours/day before the first day of school can help build a tolerance for this strange feeling. Consistently practice 2m of distance. Consider this an opportunity to practice listening as your child vents, shares, and verbalizes. Allow your child to feel uncomfortable with this ‘new normal.’ Keep your comments somewhat benign with statements like “yeah, this sure is going to be a change” or “I know you probably feel strange about this” or “I’m glad you are trying. It’s hard, isn’t it?” or “I am curious how ____ is doing with this.” or “I’m not sure about this either. Thank goodness we have each other, huh?

PERSPECTIVE How we parents and teachers model our perspective and response will likely determine how our child’s/student’s mindset will be as they venture into uncertainty and change. Model the opportunity to grow, persevere and build resilience and how you deal with your own sense of...UGGGG!

PARADE! Have fun with this process. Humour can go A LONG WAY with kids while still validating your/their feelings. Change the channel on back to school worries with a customized mask, fancy smelling hand sanitizer and funny surprise memes and “bitmojis” printed and posted around the house the weeks leading up to the big day, like this...

flex meme

Kids get a kick out of parents attempting to be cool... like this...print, post or text to your kiddo. Use their lingo. LEARN from them and laugh at yourself.  They may roll their eyes or not respond, but it’s guaranteed to produce some internal feel-good chemicals of fun, care and comfort for them.

~ Sam