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Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Anxiety; How to prepare for back to in-person learning

Guest Writer; Brian Rees, PhD

For many kids who did virtual learning last year, those days are over. Although numerous elementary and middle school children in Texas were in class for the majority of the 2020‐2021 academic year, an overabundance of high school kids chose to opt out.

“My kid didn’t learn anything,” lots of parents regretfully expressed in my office.

“I cheated and pressed mute the whole time,” many teenagers confessed to me.

For the students who did primarily go in‐person, heading back this fall shouldn’t be too novel. None of us will know exactly what will be happening with Covid by mid‐August, but as cases continue to plummet, presumably so will our anxiety regarding the virus.

Furthermore, almost all the kids I treated who chose not to attend school stated it was because A) they didn’t want to get potentially or sporadically quarantined or B) their friends weren’t going. I interviewed a fair number of teachers regarding their classrooms becoming fully occupied again, and they’re excited. They understand there will be a reintegration “learning curve,” especially for those home‐schooled most of last year, and therefore, will create as comfortable and smooth of a transition as possible. This is good news.

So how do we best help decrease our kids’ anxiety with a looming, full time return to in‐person academics? First, don’t say things like, “Oh come on. You’re not worried. You’ll be fine!” Telling our kids how they should think or feel is a common parenting faux pas. In my upcoming book, Tri‐C Parenting, I remind parents to pause and allow their children to express what’s going through their minds and create their own solutions, thereby, the adults become more of a wise mentor/sounding board, e.g., “How would you like the school year to go?”

This parenting approach allows kids to vocalize and create their own coping mechanisms to handle stressful situations, which builds self‐responsibility and confidence. I know we parents naturally like to give advice, but often times it backfires and unfortunately becomes a lecture. And if your kid needs to talk about the pressures caused from being back at school, strive to have a connected relationship so your child will feel comfortable expressing “life issues” with you. A child’s self‐confidence, primarily fostered by the positive, invested and empowering (not enabling) parent, is a kid’s best defense to effectively manage stressful experiences.

Dr. Brian Rees is a native North Texan, with degrees from UNT. Dr. Rees opened his private counseling practice over 15 years ago in Grapevine, focusing therapy on tweens, adolescents, young adults and their parents. After more than 40,000 hours of family counseling, he has developed a system known as Tri‐C Parenting, a fundamental straight‐forward approach to parenting. Dr. Rees spends his free time trying to keep up with his wife and three daughters in Trophy Club.

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