Tips for Going Back into Schools
The novel Coronavirus has brought a type of uncertainty that brings forth many different emotions. I can imagine most of what you are feeling has been sort of like a roller coaster of emotions. One day you may feel a sense of fear, grief, and anxiety. Next, you might feel hope, calm, and inspiration. These ups and downs, although uncomfortable, are inevitable and actually normal. In a situation like this, we are forced to live with so many unknowns that typically will cause this range of emotions.
At the beginning of the worldwide pandemic, there was a lot to adjust to, especially when it came to schools. E-learning became the norm, and parents and teachers everywhere had to figure out how to best roll this plan out. Now, with fall quickly approaching, they’ll have to do the same. However this time around, they may have to make the difficult decision of putting their kids in school with safety measures in place or keeping them home. This blog will be broken up into two parts. The first will go into how to manage the feelings of sending kids back into the schools. The second will be how to manage e-learning, since it may be a combination of both learning modalities (i.e., in-person and online) for the next school year.
Parents Top Concern
According to a survey done by Caissa Public Strategy, the top concern parents have when it comes to sending their kids back to school, is their child’s safety during this pandemic. This makes sense, of course, considering schools are filled with students, teachers, and staff and social distancing seems difficult.
What you can do
Educate and Comfort Them. If you try and put yourself in your kid’s shoes to feel how they feel going through a pandemic, it could potentially help you help the kids when they have to go back to school. They have had to deal with adapting to a world where they cannot have play dates, they have to learn at home and they have to wear masks when in a public place. Of course, we are all dealing with similar adjustments, but being a child can be more difficult since they do not have the capacity to emotionally regulate, or even understand why these policies are in place. They also may have developed an intense fear of germs or may be triggered by the idea of getting sick (especially if they lost a close family member to COVID-19).
Try and help them understand why this is happening in an informative, understandable, but also a calm way as to not completely heighten their sense of fear. Here is an article that talks about ways to talk with your kids and teens about COVID-19, written by the CDC.
Practice Procedures. One thing you can do to help ease the transition to going back to school is to start practicing the safety measures and procedures that will be in place. The first step of this is to find out how your school is going to handle things. If they will have hand washing stations, create a mock one in your home and let your kids know every time they may need to use them. Have them wear their masks throughout the day to practice. Make it a fun activity and teach them about protecting others from their germs. The more they can adjust in a comfortable setting such as their home, the easier it will be to translate that into the school.
As stated before, kids are going to have a lot of intense feelings and emotions when returning to school. They probably do not understand that things will be very different than it was back before the pandemic forced them to stay home and take part in e-learning. They most likely did not get much social interaction with their friends and fellow classmates, so they will probably feel a mix of excitement, as well as confusion in why they might not be able to hug their friends or get close.
What you can do
Look for Signs. The first step is to keep an eye out for signs of emotional distress. Are they irritable, angry, or scared? Have they been way more attached to you than normal? Are they talking a lot about school and asking a lot of questions? These can all indicate some level of anxiety.
Ease their worries. Talk with them about what they are feeling. Ask them if they understand why they will be going back to school and how they think it will be different. The more prepared they are, the easier the transition will be. Work with them on coping skills for managing these feelings. Kids are resilient, but could also use some help sometimes, just like adults. Try out some kid-friendly Yoga (Super Stretch is a great app for this). Have some time during the day or at night to practice 5 minutes of mindful meditation where they can focus on their breathing. And above all, validate their feelings. Try to stay clear of saying things like, “you’ll be fine” or “you need to just relax about it.” Instead, say things like “I can imagine how scary this might be for you, and I am here for you” or “it sounds like you are feeling nervous about it, how can I help with that?”
The most important thing to remember is you’re not alone and you are doing the best that you can. This was not something anyone has had to prepare for and everyone is working to find the best ways to handle the changes. Give yourself some grace and do not be too hard on yourself. Keep lines of communication open with the school, and if you feel you need additional support for yourself or your kids, contact a local counselor to help you through.
C. (2020, June 15). Survey Reveals Parents’ Top Concerns About Returning to School Since COVID-19. Retrieved July 19, 2020, from https://www.educationdive.com/press-release/20200615-survey-reveals-parents-top-concerns-about-returning-to-school-since-covid-/
Talking with children about Coronavirus Disease 2019. (2020, May 20). Retrieved July 19, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/talking-with-children.html