5 Things Every Parent Needs to Know as Kids Go Back to School This Year

5 Things Every Parent Needs to Know as Kids Go Back to School This Year August 12, 2021

Three children walking down a school hallway, their faces covered in cloth masks 

“Back to school” means something very different this year. After 18 months of disruption, most school districts are trying to get kids back to in-person learning in the classroom. Back to some semblance of normal. And yet . . . it is “normal” for us, not our kids. For them, one and a half years is a lifetime, developmentally. “Normal” has moved on.

For example, my son is a rising senior who is deep in the process of ACT studying and college applications. Starting this week, he will be back with people he has seen only on a video screen since he was a sophomore—before any of them could drive. During a time when the most long-term thought they had was whether the Track team would make the championships. (Answer: no. The championships were all cancelled.)

Now, for him, thankfully the transition won’t be as jarring since his school offered both virtual and in-person learning. So the ratio of students he hasn’t physically seen in 18 months is low. But for many students around the country, the number is 100%.

And think about how developmentally different things are for our younger kids. For many middle schoolers, the last time they were in school they still had to walk in a line with a homeroom teacher and were in a social situation where everyone was relatively accepting of one another. How times will have changed.

Even crazier, our youngest kids will be back in a classroom environment they barely remember—or have no memory of at all.

Bottom line: in this back-to-school season, there are a lot of anxieties—and a lot of opportunities. As I ponder the research we’ve done with 3,000+ kids over the years, our ongoing interviews with kids today, and the other studies out there, here are five vitally important things to know.

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