Updated: Sep 7, 2021
Tips on how to help your child adjust to returning to school in person.
Let's keep it honest: living through a pandemic and having to navigate variants, vaccines, racism, and disinformation have made this year one of the most difficult and stressful times we have experienced as a society. For our little ones, they are also feeling the pressure of change in their lives which can make life scarier and more difficult to comprehend. Daily routines they are accustomed to have shifted, and many dynamics in their lives may appear to be everchanging.
One of those routines, attending school, has shifted significantly over the past year, with classrooms going virtual, and many students adapting or struggling with their schooling as a result.
Now, it appears most children are going back to school in person; however, this time around it may be a bit more challenging due to the new health guidelines set in place for everyone's safety.
The best thing we can do as adults is show them how they have our support as they navigate what is now being considered "the new normal".
Below are ways in which we can support our young people so they can have a more fulfilling educational experience:
1) Talk openly to your child/ren about their feelings towards returning to school during these times.
Let your child/ren know it is safe to talk and discuss how they are feeling -the good, the bad, and the ugly - about their return to in-person schooling. Encourage them to talk by asking open-ended questions, like, "What does your classroom look like?" and, "What kind of mask is your teacher wearing?". This will get them more engaged to talk and not suppress any anxieties or confusion they may feel. It is also important to inform them it is okay to have those feelings, while also reassuring them they can talk to you about their feelings when they need to.
2)Practice safe hygiene and interaction skills at home.
Ensure your child/ren is practicing safe hygiene at school by helping them develop good hygiene habits at home! Make sure they practice proper handwashing, mask-wearing, and social distancing when in public and be vigilant in correcting any improper hygiene habits they may have developed. Also, make sure they understand why it is important not to share their lunch or any food with friends at this time.
3) Keep a routine at home.
Keeping a routine helps children have a sense of security. With the uncertainty of the times we are in, it is imperative to ensure some activities, customs, or traditions will always be there. Of course, there are exceptions based on life circumstances - like moving to a new home, increase/decrease of income, illness, even death. However, the more you can try to keep some routines in place at home, the more balanced their lives will feel, and the better they may be able to adapt to the new changes at school.
4) Make a health and safety school kit.
Create a health and safety school kit for them to have in their bookbag, or for the teacher to hold on to when they need it. Inform your child/ren about the kit and make sure it includes extra face masks, hand sanitizer, and alcohol wipes (for surfaces). This way, your child/ren will feel prepared to keep themselves and others safe.
5) Encourage play activity and making friends despite pandemic times.
Although it may seem contradictory, reassure your child/ren that they can still play with their friends like they normally would; they will just have to be more careful.
Having friendships are incredibly important for children's social development and self-esteem, so it is important to encourage them to continue playing with friends along with learning in school.
6) Also encourage them to be kind towards their teachers and school staff. It's been a tough time for them, too!
An important lesson all people - both children and adults - could learn nowadays is empathy, so this would be a great time to remind your child/ren that these times have been difficult for the teachers and school administrators as well. Teaching them the importance of kindness can help them develop great relationships with their teachers and classmates, which may likely help them to have a wonderful school year.
Hopefully, your family will find these tips helpful during these pandemic times. Most importantly, I hope these tips are the encouragement your little ones need to have a terrific school year!
Anna Gilchrist is a children's author, youth rights advocate, and founder of her company, Sandfish Publishing. She received her MFA in Childhood Studies at Swansea University in the UK and has published two books, both of which can be found on Amazon and her website. When she is not writing, she loves to spend her free time cooking gourmet meals, singing and dancing to 90's hits, and tending to her multiple plants in her New Jersey apartment.