While summer is still coming to a close in some parts of the country, many states are already gearing up for a new school year. Back to school can be stressful at the best of times, but after a spring of remote learning amid the Covid-19 spread, sending our little ones back to the classroom – online, in-person or a hybrid of the two – is daunting.
The CDC has released recommendations for schools to reopen with guidelines on social distancing, wearing masks, temperature checks and alternate schedules to reduce classroom sizes. However, balancing safety with continued academic growth can feel like walking a tightrope with so many restrictions. Below are three ways to tackle the new challenges.
Make safety rules fun
You’ve probably spent the entire summer reminding your child about the everyday precautions he or she needs to take to prevent getting sick. As they go back to school, here are some fun ways to reinforce COVID-19 safety rules:
- Find your child a comfortable mask and reward them for the time they wear it by doing fun things, such as playing games, coloring, reading books or dancing, while they have it on. Don’t forget to use positive reinforcement when they wear a mask.
- You can also make the mask itself fun by having your child decorate it to make it their own. If it’s a paper mask, they can use stickers. If it’s fabric, they can use fabric paint on the outside. Find fabrics that reflect their personality, like their favorite superhero.
- Washing hands thoroughly is more important than ever. Tell your child to sing a song, like the ABC’s, when they wash their hands. They can sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” or “Happy Birthday” or another favorite – the main thing is it should be a 20 second long song to get all of the germs off.
Listen to your child’s concerns
The question all parents are asking is how will COVID-19 impact my child’s mental health? It’s important to keep an eye out for anxiety in your child that could be a result of new protocols, including changes in sleep patterns, continually seeking reassurance despite already receiving an answer and acting out.
Parents also have a new set of challenges with managing their own stress around the pandemic and trying to remain calm while listening to children’s concerns. In order to help support your child’s mental health about the changes at school as a result of COVID-19, parents can:
- Encourage conversations about the new school safety rules
- Practice the new safety rules at home to reinforce success in the classroom
- Acknowledge and validate your child’s feelings if they are scared or anxious
- Reassure your child that a lot of adults are working hard to keep everyone safe
- Maintain sleeping, eating, and general family household routines
- Facilitate age-appropriate opportunities for children to make choices, giving them a sense of safety and control
Whether your child is concerned about having to wear a mask all day or what might happen if there’s a confirmed case at school, make sure you’re listening intently, empathizing often and helping your child cope with his or her feelings in a reassuring manner.
Let your parental instincts guide you
In a time when almost any activity outside your home comes with a risk, don’t be afraid to lean into your parental instinct. With many schools offering the option of online learning, you may be keeping your kids in 100% online classes this school year or semester. Knowing how important classroom learning and socialization are for your child, you may have decided that you’ve done your homework when it comes to safely sending your child back to school.
No matter what you’ve chosen, trust your own instincts and feel confident that you’ve made the right decision for your child and your family. Try to stay positive, remember that it takes time to acclimate to change and set realistic expectations. Your example is one they are exposed to more than any classroom or teacher. If your child hears you speaking optimistically about the school year, they will adopt that attitude.