For months, we have learned new ways to protect ourselves and our children from COVID-19. We have learned guidelines for novel ways of socializing, we have worn our masks, compulsively cleaned our hands (and some of us – our groceries), stayed home, and learned how to complete our work virtually – all while taking on a new role as teachers to our children.
Now, after much debate, delay, and contemplation, our children are heading back to school, and many parents may be feeling stress and anxiety. However, just as parents learned to adjust to virtual learning, we will also need to adjust to the idea of our children returning to the classroom. Here are some tips to help with this transition:
- You have heard time and time again that children will sense when their parents are worried or concerned about something – even if you never speak to them about it. Children can understand body language, facial expressions, and other non-verbal indicators that alert them when a caregiver is worried. Rather than bottling in stress and anxiety related to back-to-school, try approaching the topic with positivity and enthusiasm. Make it a point to express to your kids that going back to school is going to be great! They too will begin to feel that going back to school will be a great, new experience.
- Most children (and parents) like to be prepared. Take time to sit down with your child to review your school’s policy on masks, social distancing, school drop off and pick-up, attendance, etc. If you prepare your kids and yourself for what is to be expected, we are all more likely to feel ready for the new schooling guidelines. Feeling prepared can help reduce our worries and anxiety.
- Do a practice run that mimics the routine of a school day. For example, get up in the morning at the same time you and the kids would need to get up for school, prepare their lunch or snack, have breakfast, and/or get the backpacks ready to prepare for the day, drive to the school, etc. Remember that schedules and routines have been put on pause for some time, so it may take a few trials to feel prepared.
- Find a balance between educating your kids on the importance of their safety and that of others as well as showing them that going back to school provides structure, routine, peer connection, and a sense of community. If there is something that we have learned throughout the COVID-19 pandemic is that (most) people “need” people, and that although advancements in technology have afforded us some levels of connection and learning, we have missed that sense of community with others. For many parents and kids, that community is found in our schools. For the first week, plan an activity to highlight your child’s school day. This can be a drawing, a written story, a special dinner, or a sticker on the family calendar- something that commemorates the start of a new beginning and new school year.
- Reach out to other parents in your community and school system. Chances are if you feel a sense of worry or hesitation about children entering the classrooms again, other parents feel the same. Remember that parents too have gone through a great adjustment period and need to give themselves time to readjust and reconnect with the new normal.