CONNECTICUT (WTNH) — We usually talk about managing “back to school stress” in August, but this year, during the COVID-19 pandemic, parents may want to start the conversation early.

“Finger biting, hand rubbing, a lot of those physical displays of anxiety,” said Connecticut Behavioral Health‘s Dr. Ryan Loss of the symptoms you may see in your child.

Kids are often anxious about starting school in the fall, but this year is on a different level.

“It becomes, ‘what do we tell our kids? What do we tell them it’s going to look like?’ It’s a massive set of unknowns at this point. The indication is that we’re going back to in-school learning, it might be uncomfortable but it might change.”

With the presumption that kids will return to the classroom here in Connecticut, prepare them for the new realities such as wearing a mask.

“Some parents are committed to consistent mask-wearing and their kids are very fluid in getting masks on, masks off and understanding it where others are not as adept,” said Loss.

Kids can practice wearing the mask in small increments. You can give them rewards. Acknowledge that they might feel some separation anxiety after being with you so much over the last few months.

“This is an opportunity to work with your kids on change and flexibility,” said Loss, noting that these are skills that will last a lifetime.

Lastly, empower them to be part of the solution.

“‘What are you going to do now? How are you going to work through this?’ If we give them all the answers, they’re not going to develop resiliency, they’re going to be dependent on us,” he explained. “Flexibility is key. It’s a massive, massive strength in life to be flexible and understanding.”

Parents will feel some stress too. So, Dr. Loss reminds us to take breaks, commit to exercise and get a good night’s sleep. It’s all about self-care.