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How to Help Kids Rebuild Their Stamina for the New School Year

Masked up, many children have headed back to in-person learning. Though the academic load has not yet become heavy, the time in isolation has taken its toll in many ways.

Just like an athlete returning to training after post-injury recuperation, our kids need to slowly build back the stamina they once had.  We can help our kids steadily build it back over time and adjust stamina for social interaction, focus and study, and all that it takes to be an engaged student of today.  Here are some ideas to support your kids in this time:

Acknowledge the internal work of socializing: The texting and device connection we have be using for 18 months does not rely on the complex systems of social interaction norms that are required when in school buildings. It is difficult and overwhelming to be faced with reading body language again and be forced to infer facial expressions only from one another’s eyes.

This is exhausting work, especially when we have only applied these skills to a couple of people at a time. And your children are now surrounded by crowds at school.  This process of rebuilding capacity to process social cues and information is challenging work that will take time.  You might want to point out this internal work that your child is doing so that they can appreciate that it is not easy and they can be patient with themselves.

Listen to your children:  Validate their feelings of nervousness and anxiety. Listen to understand what they are experiencing.  Believe them when they say that they are exhausted. Explain that stamina for the school day will take a while to re-build, and that it’s a journey they are on. You can consider pivoting to what excites them about school and what their hopes are for this new year. By focusing on strengths, you can help them to see a pathway to create the year that they hope for.

Model and teach self-regulation skills: As a family, begin to include self-regulation activities into the day to proactively support building focus and calm. Here’s an article which covers all the basics of the importance of self-regulation skills, and a free Sound Discipline PDF download of activities you can practice and play together.

Commit to Reading Time: Help your children to build reading stamina at home. Most subjects require the ability to read for prolonged periods, something that may have gone by the wayside over the summer. Take time to read books at home yourself and consider a family reading time each day.

Co-create structures to support stamina building: Routines, agreements, patterns, and plans will support your child’s before and after school times.  Here’s a quick video with some helpful tips.

Limit Screen Time: For some kids, the transition from having almost unlimited access to their phones and being on their devices to suddenly being in classrooms will be difficult. You can build focus and stamina for in-person learning with less time on devices. You might ask your kids what they have been noticing in their bodies in the way of device withdrawal and what they notice about themselves when they use devices less.  This video might help spark a conversation. It reports on an experiment where college students went without their phones for a week. They reported better sleep, a better sense of well-being and better relationships.