• P.E.T. South Africa

3 Ways to help your child cope with back-to-school jitters

The uncertainties around children going back to school have parents facing unfamiliar challenges. Fear and anxiety levels are bound to rise as children are, firstly, leaving their place of shelter from the COVID-19 pandemic and, secondly, separating from their families for the first time in months.

Open and honest communication is crucial. Below we've listed three simple ways to manage the tensions in your home during this time.

Accept the uncomfortable feelings

Parents are quick to jump in and solve a child's fears. We often try to downplay the severity of the situation, reason with the child, or even praise them for being so brave. While all these so-called helping-techniques have good intentions, they have one risk in common: they block conversation flow (roadblocks).

It is healthy to allow your child to experience overwhelming emotions like fear, doubt, and anxiousness. They need to feel it, learn to identify it, and learn to find a solution to their anxiety. Your most crucial role as a parent is creating a safe space for them to go through this process. If your child finds it difficult to express themselves, you can encourage them to dig deeper by using short open-ended statements that Parent Effectiveness Training (P.E.T.) calls door-openers.


"Would you like to say more about that?"

"Sounds like you have some strong feelings about that."

"I'm interested in what you're saying."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"You are not a "bad" parent because you use roadblocks. You are doing what you have been taught to do to help others. P.E.T. will provide you with more effective alternatives to begin using instead of these common roadblocks." - Dr Thomas Gordon

Healthy emotional development involves learning, understanding, recognising, and dealing with emotions. Children encouraged to identify, express, and healthily handle their feelings, develop rewarding life skills.

Set the example

Parents are also battling heightened levels of stress and anxiety. And so often, mostly unintentionally, parents project these feelings onto their children. They allow the fear to lead them rather than leading it.

It does not mean that you are not allowed to be anxious. It merely means that you need to set the example on how you are handling these feelings. Children appreciate knowing and learning how you are taking control of these emotions. So, use this opportunity to make a list with your child of all the things you both are unsure about and brainstorm creative ways you plan on handling it.

Routine, routine, routine