This past school year has been challenging for kids, to put it mildly. Most have been in one of two situations – their learning has occurred completely online, through virtual classrooms, or they have been in “hybrid” situations, sometimes online, and sometimes in a physical classroom environment.
No matter which of these two your child has experienced, it has been wholly different from what he had been accustomed to. And you’ve had a year of checking to see that “class” was attended, that homework was done and submitted, putting up with the excuses, and being an in-home tutor when you didn’t have the time or understanding (can we say, “new math?”). Now, you are ready to turn that child over to his teachers, full-time and out of the house. The “start of school” has a sweet ring to it this year.
This is all well and good – for you.
But is it all “well and good” for your kiddo? Chances are, he is verbalizing how he wants to be away from your grasp, get back to “normalcy,” be with and make new friends, and, if a bit older, get back to all of the school co-curricular activities.
While all of this verbalization is going on, though, there will be anxieties, issues, and questions about returning to the classroom. Your child may not mention any of these, but you need to address them anyway.
Here are the steps you may want to take to ensure that your kid is mentally ready to make the change to the former learning environment.
1. Evaluate your comfort level
What are your anxieties regarding your child’s return to a regular learning environment? While you may be outwardly rejoicing that your kids will be “out of your hair” and that their learning will be back in the hands of the professionals, you may have worries.
Will your child be safe? Is the school taking the precautions it should minimize the risk of COVID transmission? Is my child behind his classmates in learning? What will the school do for those kids who are behind?
If you are experiencing these worries, you may be transmitting them to your child, even without meaning to. This increases his anxiety too.
The best “fix” for your anxieties is to be in communication with the school, to go there if necessary, and to see and hear for yourself what is being done to keep the environment as physically and emotionally safe as possible. If you are going to send your kid off with enthusiasm and positivity, you need a high level of comfort. It will be contagious.
2. Discuss the new protocols with your child
Will there be temperature checks at the entry doors? Will there be requirements for hand sanitizing throughout the day? Will there be new rules for the playground? What about masks?
How will PE classes be different, especially if your kiddo is in middle or high school? And what about sports and other co-curricular activities? Will there be COVID testing requirements?
Every child, no matter what age, needs to know in advance what protocols the school has in place and how those will be implemented. These should be presented as positively as possible. Focus on the benefits of these requirements, not the inconveniences that students will face.
3. Plan a visit to the school
Especially for young children, this is important. They need to re-adjust to their new schooling surroundings; they need to see their classroom. While many schools may have a “Back to School” evening, that may not be enough for your child. A private look at things with you can be far more comforting, especially if you remain positive.
4. Prepare your child for more change
No one can anticipate what may be coming “down the pike.” This new Delta variant is already wreaking havoc in some states in the country. There is certainly the possibility that schools may be forced to close again. It is important that you discuss this possibility with your student and reassure him that you will do everything to make sure that he stays current in his studies and in communication with his friends. Social isolation is tough.
If schools must go back to distance learning or hybrid situations, it will be your job to get creative about their social needs. You can plan play dates that involve outdoor activities; you can make sure that your student can socialize with friends online – Facetime and games can provide good social interaction, even the development of some social skills, such as negotiating and the give and take of relationships and play.
5. Address social distancing
It’s fine for schools to talk about “6 feet apart.” It’s another for your student, even at the high school level, to understand that distance.
The distance is for a good reason. Saliva can easily travel that distance during coughing, sneezing, shouting, etc. There are actually demos of this online. Show them to your student.
Practice this distance. Find things at home that are 6 feet long. Barring that, find sticks or tree branches that are and practice staying 6 feet apart at home.
Now, to be honest here, teens who are romantically involved are not going to practice this. There will need to be other “solutions” in place. These may include a commitment on their part to undergo periodic testing and to be vaccinated. You can control your student, but not his or her partner. This may call for a conversation with another parent, and don’t hesitate to do this. Just e certain that both your child and his/her partner know in advance that you plan to do this.
Here’s the other thing about teens. They are more rational than young children. They can read and understand the research that backs up the current protocols They might want to read some essay and research paper examples produced by GetGoodGrade, a professional writing service that produces such products on a regular basis.
6. Shopping for school supplies
For young children, this can be an exciting start of school activity – all those new markers, folders, notebooks, and such. It’s just fun.
The supply list this year will include additional items, to be sure – face masks and much more hand sanitizer, of course.
As you shop with your child, explain the reasons for these new items, but do so in a positive vein. The goal is to keep everyone safe so that school can go on.
7. About those masks
Your child has probably been used to wearing a mask for short periods of time – going to the store, maybe to Sunday school. But he has not experienced wearing one for longer periods of time – an entire school day, to be exact. This, in itself, can be anxiety-producing. So, how can you help to alleviate this stress?
First, begin to practice wearing a mask for longer periods of time at home. You wear one too. Your child needs to see that you can do this without stress, too.
Second, reassure your child that he will have a large mask supply every day, so that he can change them out, getting a fresh one as he wants or needs. Just the thought that he can change out his mask can be a stress reliever.
Third, be certain to talk with the school about times when children may take their masks off – while they are eating, of course, but perhaps when they are supervised during recess and practicing social distancing? Re-assure your child that there will be times when he can be mask-free at school, so long as he follows the rules.
8. Appeal to your child’s sense of being kind
Most of us have a “need” to help others. If this concept has been practiced in your household, then you have a great starting point for a discussion on how the new protocols at school are a part of doing something for others. Certainly, youngsters do not want their friends to get sick; teens don’t either. Basically, they are sacrificing some conveniences in school for the good of their greater community.
No, it will not. There are many unknowns about the start of this new school year, and things can change rapidly. The best you can do is maintain your calm, ease your anxieties, and then follow these tips to help your student deal with both the current and potentially changing situations.