What My Child Should Know this Year
Back-to-school is anything but ordinary as we continue to navigate COVID-19. You and your child may feel anxious about the return to school whether it’s in-person, remote, or a combination of the two. The 2020 and 2021 school years were a continuous trial of how to learn in an environment severely disrupted by the pandemic.
Back to school is always a time of transition, and this year we can expect it to continue with more of the unexpected for parents and students as we adjust to new modified routines. Here are some suggestions on what you can do now to ease the transition and prepare your child for what school will look like when class begins.
Open the Dialogue as Soon as Possible
Start conversations early with your kids about back to school and ask what they know about COVID-19 or how it may impact their school year. Then try to share and explain what you know about options your school district is offering or considering. Encourage your child to express their feelings – positive and negative and ask questions like, are they excited about seeing friends, worried about getting sick, or anything else?
Talk to your kids with their age and maturity level in mind. For example the kindergarten student’s explanation will differ from a high school student’s. Listen to their concerns calmly, reassure them that you and school leaders are trying to do what’s best.
You Need to Find Out What They Know
Your kids – even the youngest – have probably heard something about starting school during COVID-19, whether from the news or overhearing home conversations. We must accept the fact that our kids know more about COVID-19 than we think.
We must ask them what they’ve heard, and correct any misconceptions they may have. We must reassure them that we will help them – no matter what.
On the other hand, the older kids and adolescents may be worried about more than themselves. For example, they can worry about a parent or grandparent with significant health issues who lives with them and may be more susceptible to COVID-19.
We need to keep reminding them to take precautions – i.e. wear masks and maintain physical distance – but at the same time they need to be reassured to let go of the worry. As parents, we are doing all we can to protect everyone in the family.
Encourage Positive Behavior
It’s an uncertain time in the world as many have lost loved ones or jobs because of the virus and downturn in the economy. It makes sense that you and your kids may be feeling fearful, discouraged, or restless.
It’s important to encourage positive behavior to improve mood and coping skills – including taking care of yourself. Here are a few tips for some behaviors to model for your kids:
- Get enough sleep
- Eat good nutritious food
- Perform regular exercise and physical activity
- Reach out to friends and family to maintain connections
- Share your own strategies for overcoming worry with family members
No matter how your child returns to learning this fall, there will be an adjustment period. Instead of a harsh change – for example going from not wearing a mask at all at home during the summer, to wearing one for 8 hours a day at school – encourage your child to start practicing safer behaviors now.
Most kids – even the youngest – can be gradually taught to wear a mask properly and need patient reinforcement from grown ups. Start practicing now to help your kids become more comfortable and ease into the transition back to school.
Perhaps as a suggestion, they can watch an hour of TV or play an hour of games online if they wear their mask. Consider creating a schedule with times assigned to school work, reading, relaxing, etc., and adding more activities to the “mask-wearing” list every few days.
Gradually increase the amount of time your child properly wears their mask, eventually, it will make everyone feel more confident when they return to school with peers.
Please always remember there is no right or wrong way to go about returning to school in these uncertain times. At the end of the day, if you or your kids are extremely anxious about returning to in-person learning, gather all the facts available and trust your instincts, then make a decision that feels right for your circumstances.
As vaccines for children become available, you may decide to go forward with having your child vaccinated. Stay informed on this topic. Here is a great checklist for back to school planning available online and recommended by the CDC – Click here to download
Chaudhary, Dr. Neha. “Prepare Your Kids Mentally for the Transition Back to School.” CNN, Cable News Network, 24 Mar. 2021, edition.cnn.com/2021/03/24/health/returning-to-school-after-covid-wellness/index.html
“COVID-19: Checklists to Guide Parents, Guardians, and Caregivers.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, May 2021, www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/parent-checklist.html