When COVID first disrupted our lives, our lives changed very quickly and we had little time for planning. Whether your school year return will be in-person, virtual, or a combination (or it’s still unknown!), we have the ‘luxury’ of forethought. As we enter another “Back to School” season, albeit unusual, take a look at these six tips for preparing your children mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Get Social Again
If you haven’t already, get creative with ways your children can get reacquainted with friends. Set up virtual lunch dates, find interactive online games to play, or choose an engaging book they can read together. Or if you feel comfortable, set up a meet-up at a park where children can have a socially-distanced playdate.
Get Back on Schedule
Getting back to a full day schedule will be challenging, so start establishing a routine now. Set regular bedtimes; wake up at consistent times and get dressed; stick with a daily schedule with tasks to accomplish each day. Getting into this habit will be especially helpful if you will be supporting virtual learning in the fall.
Encourage hand washing multiple times a day, as your children sing a song that is at least 20 seconds long. Have your children practice engaging with you while keeping space (show them what six feet actually looks like). Talk about limited contact with others and practice when out in public. If masks will be required in your children’s school, make sure they practice safe mask use and get used to wearing it.
No news isn’t always good news with kids. Frequently ask your children how they’re feeling and try to gauge how they’re handling the idea of going back to school. Feelings don’t need fixing; try to focus on listening and empathizing. If they are feeling anxious, try offering some coping strategies they can tap into, such as deep breathing exercises, squeezing something like a stress ball, or thinking about the words to their favorite song; send them to school with a picture of their family or pet they can look at when they feel lonely.
Maybe not completely, but try to cut down on its use while remote learning instruction isn’t happening. Whether children will be back to in-person school or will continue virtual learning, take the opportunity now to reestablish balanced screen time. For students who will be remote learning, it will be good to squeeze in a break from those devices.
Starting a new school year can be stressful at the best of times, let alone during a global pandemic. Remind your children that teachers and students from across the country have all been out of their school buildings for five months now – we’re all in this together!