As we prepare our children for a new school year in 2020, we are all facing unprecedented challenges that continue to impact our daily lives due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Some of our children may be returning to in-person learning, some may be continuing with remote lessons, and many will most likely be experiencing a hybrid version of both in-person and online lessons. Parents have an important responsibility in helping to prepare their children for this new school year, while keeping them safe and alleviating fears of the new normal related to education.
In the spring, schools were mandated to shut down as the virus spread and fear increased. Since then, we have learned more about Covid-19 and how to keep our families safe. Businesses have begun to re-open while everyone continues to adjust to the new normal. As we make plans for the upcoming school year, let us keep this progress in mind as we prepare our children. While we still don’t know how long restrictions will last, or if we may even experience a rollback on reopening due to a new surge of Covid-19, we know much more now than we did 6 months ago when the first case was reported in the United States. Let us focus on the positive, and the steps we can take to keep our children safe and to alleviate their fears as we approach the new school year.
One of the first steps you can take as a parent is to contact your child’s school to learn what plans are being implemented for both learning and for safety. Talk with your child about how returning to school this year will be both the same in some ways and different in others. Acknowledge your child’s fears as they arise, and their disappointments. Social activities and even personal interactions with peers will definitely be limited. For children, school is a central core to their lives, and any change can be scary. Continue to reassure your child that these changes are necessary for their safety, while also encouraging their input into creative ways to face these challenges. You want your child to be appropriately cautious while avoiding fear. As masks continue to be a necessary requirement, engage your child in picking out special masks for back to school. Masks have become a notable fashion accessory and can be just as exciting as picking out new clothes. By engaging your child in this process, you are helping them become compliant with the requirement. If you have become more relaxed with precautions such as disinfecting surfaces and handwashing at home, now is the time to renew your vigilance and set the example for your children.
Of equal importance is for parents to help their child focus on what is still the same this school year. Parents need to start getting their children on a regular schedule. Often summertime means more fluid bedtimes and relaxed rules. As we get our children prepared to return to a school environment, we need to start adding back more structure. If you have allowed later bedtimes, start gradually working back to an earlier schedule. Even 5 minutes earlier each day will make the transition easier than if you wait until the end of summer. If your child is a late morning sleeper, move wake up times earlier in increments as well. Whether school will be in-person or remote, or both, be sure each child has a designated spot for homework and supplies. Talk about schedules. Be sure to incorporate relaxation and family time into remote learning and working. As an increasing number of our homes are also our office and school, we need to remember that first and foremost we are family, and our homes need to reflect that safe haven for our children.
Finally, adults need to keep talking with children, answering their questions simply. Use age-appropriate words and explanations. As adults, we more fully understand the nuances and impact the Covid-19 pandemic continues to have on our lives, but there is no need for us to overly burden our children. The primary job of a parent is to keep your child safe, which includes knowing what information to share. Reach out to other parents for support and ideas. Your children will grow and move on from this crisis and are often much more resilient than adults. Let us keep positive and informed and remember to also take time to relax as a family, and to be an advocate for your child.
There is no more important job than the job of a parent.
For more information: Mobile Therapy Centers (MTC) is a private therapy company offering individual services to children and families, including counseling & behavioral therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and ABA therapy for children on the autism spectrum, as well as educational workshops and webinars. For more information, please contact MTC at firstname.lastname@example.org or # 847-816-7200.
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