Although Canada’s plans for school reopening after COVID-19 vary according to each province, one thing remains the same for most kids: they have concerns and anxieties about going back to school amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Changing their daily routine, wearing masks, social distancing, and other safety precautions can be unsettling for children and youth.
Here are a few tips to help parents and caregivers support children of all ages to adjust to school reopening amid the COVID-19 pandemic — so they can do their very best this year and just focus on being kids.
1. Open Communication
The pandemic has caused unprecedented levels of stress among children and grown-ups alike. Similar to adults, children are showing more signs of depression and other mental health issues. The isolation and uncertainty can be difficult to handle, especially for kids.
Now more than ever, children need to communicate how they are feeling with the people they live with. Let your kids express themselves through words, art and play — even when their feelings may be dark or confusing.
Kids will often sense their parents’ anxiety. If you are worried about sending your child back to school safely, you should find a way to communicate that without creating unnecessary fears.
Try to find a balance between sharing your concerns and unloading all your anxiety onto your child. It’s OK to admit that things are scary right now. Reassure your children that you have confidence in the teachers and the school to do what is right.
You should also talk to your son or daughter about all the things they can do to control what may seem like an uncontrollable situation. Instruct them on social distancing and other measures so they can form healthy habits. Remind them that they, just like adults, have a responsibility to follow the rules.
Comfort kids by reminding them that we are all in this together, and no one is alone.
2. Continued Good Hygiene
If you have been enforcing good hygiene in your home during the pandemic, you can praise your child for continuing these practices when they go back to school.
Make hygiene fun — try singing silly songs while they wash their hands.
Masks can become a fashion statement. Little kids love superhero masks, while older kids may opt for more goth or sparkly versions.
Talk to your school administrator to learn what measures they are taking to promote good hygiene. To avoid sharing, they may suggest individual school supplies like crayons and paper. Schools may also choose to incorporate staggered school times or learning pods.
By learning the practice being adopted in your school district, you can continue those practices at home. For kids, consistency is key. They will be better able to adapt to this “new normal” with one set of rules that they can follow everywhere.
3. Healthy Routines
Anxiety has been prevalent during this time when rules keep changing and no one really knows what the future may hold. The anxiety of going back to school is exacerbated by the ever-changing statistics and warnings.
Kids respond well to having routines. It can give them a sense of continuity and control when everything else seems unpredictable and overwhelming.
If you have established healthy routines during the pandemic, keep it up! Screen time limits may need to be adjusted for homework, but encourage your kids to get outside every day and engage in some kind of physical activity.
Set regular times for family meals, game nights and dog walks. It will give you all something to look forward to, and provide a feeling of stability.
Don’t forget to establish regular bedtimes, which may have been ignored over the summer. Getting a good night’s rest is another critical way to stay healthy both mentally and physically.
4. Tools, Especially Tech
Some schools are still holding online classes for all or part of their curriculum. It’s essential that your kids have the technology they need to participate in any online education or activities.
If you can, make sure your kid’s computer is up-to-date and functioning properly. Make sure your Wi-Fi is reliable, and if it is not, look into other options.
Whether your child will continue studying at home or will be going into school, they still need basic necessities like notebooks, pens, pencils and a calculator. They may need more, as they will not be able to share supplies. Kids often take pride in choosing their own supplies, so let them participate in the shopping.
Create a space in your home where your child can work effectively. It should be separate from distractions like the television, and private enough that your child can concentrate. You can help them decorate their space with inspirational posters, photos of loved ones, and other images that will keep them focused and upbeat.
5. Honesty and Humour
No matter whether your kids are going back to school in person or remotely — and no matter whether they are toddlers o teenager — kids benefit from honesty from their parents. It’s OK to tell them you are not sure when things are going to get better. It’s good to let them know you get frightened, too.
Humour can help families get through trying times. When the school opening date gets pushed back again, or when the Zoom connection freezes, try to laugh instead of expressing frustration.
You can encourage resiliency and adaptability in your children by rolling with the punches. If you get upset about the limitations right now and find yourself missing family, travel and others pre-COVID enjoyments, give yourself some time to be sad — then pick yourself up and keep going!
School Reopening: Helping Your Kids Through the New Normal
School reopening can be stressful under the best of circumstances, but this year may be especially difficult for children and youth. But you can help your kids get through the anxiety caused by the COVID-19 restrictions by being open, honest and positive. Remember to set up good routines that will help keep them healthy and alleviate the nervousness that accompanies all the changes we are facing.
For more information on ways to keep your children happy and healthy, check out other articles in our blog.