Preparing Your Child for the New School Year amidst Pandemic
As some governments ponder the decision to reopen the schools this coming September, parents and teachers naturally feel anxious about potential repercussion on the health and safety of everyone involved. Even if we try to be absolutely positive for a moment and believe that all the necessary measures will be taken to ensure social distancing at all times and regular sanitation of hands and surfaces, the most important factor still remains unaddressed – children’s mental health.
Predicting and navigating some of the complicated and often confusing emotions children will be facing, is job of all of us, but it has to start now, at home. Here are some scenarios that might be hard for your child to cope with and what can you do to support them.
1. My child is scared to go back to school
Sit with your child and let them tell you all about the worries and fears. Returning to school is always a stressful period, mostly because of uncertainty associated with it. Be honest and open with your child and explain to them what is to be expected. Find out about the school’s daily routine beforehand and go through it with your child. Practice washing hands “around the clock” and remind them about the need to wear protective clothes and masks just like any other time when being outside of home. If your school has videos or pamphlets promoting planned precautionary measures, watch it together. But most importantly, focus on the positives – seeing their friends after so long!
2. Social distancing from friends
Your child may naturally find it difficult to be physically distanced from friends and teachers while at school – you could encourage them to think about other ways to bond and stay connected. Practice keeping personal space with skits and prepare your child with answers and strategies when someone approaches too close. Even if you spent eternity to promote “sharing is caring”, revise and alter this motto into not sharing food and personal items. It might take some time to unlearn, so start as early as possible.
3. Masks and protective clothes make my child frustrated
The key is again in listening to your child with empathy, ensuring them it’s healthy to talk about emotions. You can reassure your child that a lot of people around them are working hard to keep your family safe, but emphasize that it’s important that we all follow the recommended measures to take care of more vulnerable members of our community. You can watch videos and sing songs such as this one:
4. Dealing with changes in school plan mid-year
It might happen that schools might close again after reopening. Letting your child know ahead of time that this might be a possibility again will help them to be prepared for the period of adjustment ahead. It’s also vital to remind them that learning can happen anywhere – at school and at home – and that they can also keep in touch with their friends online in the meantime.
5. Expressing a roller-coaster of emotions
It’s important to regularly check in with your child to see how they’re doing. Be calm and proactive in your conversations and show them it’s okay to have all these emotions and moods that might often change. Engage your child in creative activities, such as playing and drawing, to help them express and communicate any negative feelings they may be experiencing in a safe and supportive environment. This helps them find positive ways to express difficult feelings such as anger, fear or sadness.
As children often take their emotional cues from the key adults in their lives – including parents and teachers – it is important that adults manage their own emotions well and remain calm, listen to children’s concerns, speak kindly and reassure them.