After a vacation or holiday break, getting out of the house without parents and siblings can seem like a cause for celebration.

While this may be the case for some children, others may have a more difficult time getting back into the rhythm of the school day. Parents and caregivers can create schedules, talk about worries, and engage in other activities to help kids transition more easily back to school. It is also important to practice empathy for your child’s experience returning to the classroom.

Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another person, can be a powerful tool when talking to children and helping them to transition into something that feels new or daunting.

For example, if your child does not like their teacher, they might not be excited to return back to class. They may be anxious out of fear about a contentious relationship with another student or stressed about a subject of study they find challenging. They might also be sad to leave siblings and parents who help them feel safe at home.

Putting yourself in your child’s shoes takes practice. One way to practice empathy is to ask questions and learn more about what your child is thinking and feeling. While they share their thoughts and feelings, take time to listen without judgment or correction.

It can be tempting to say, “You don’t have to worry about not liking a classmate” to try to take away any negative feelings. However, sitting with your child and listening as they express their feelings can be extremely helpful. Try saying things like, “It is easy to understand that you are worried about your classmate. What do you think we can do to make it feel a bit better?”

Remind yourself of your own feelings about challenges with your job, dealing with a problematic coworker, or having an overwhelming long list of things to do. Chances are that your child is experiencing similar feelings. As your children transition back from school break, you can serve as a great listener and support system for them.