Usually at this time of year, we talk about getting kids ready for school by helping them learn about what to expect when they start school. But what do we do this year when school won’t look like what it usually looks like, and when we are not even certain IF we will be going to school all year?
First, recognize that as a parent it is all right for you to be feeling a little anxious at the uncertainty right now. We have been facing a lot of unknowns in the past few months and we may all feel dislocated at the moment. It is important that you find ways to share these feelings with other adults, like close friends or family. It is also important that, as uncertain, and even sad or angry, you may be feeling about the upcoming school year, you stay as positive as you can with your kids. We are not saying that you should pretend that nothing is different this year or that you are not disappointed that things are different. But remember that your kids WILL eventually go back to their schools and it will help them to feel as positive as possible about those schools.
Next, there are some things you can start doing now to prepare your child for whatever school looks like in the fall:
- Acknowledge your child’s feelings. Kids have been living through the same uncertain times that we adults have been experiencing. They might be feeling nervous about what school will look like, or disappointed if they are not going back to in-person, or anxious if they are. You can acknowledge and validate these feelings. You can even share that you may feel disappointed, too. The temptation to tell kids that “it’s not so bad” may be strong here because as parents, we want to help our children feel better right away. But it is okay for kids to feel sad or anxious or even angry about the situation. Just listening to their feelings can help.
- Talk about what school WILL look like. We know that this might hard to do in detail since schools and districts are still finalizing plans. But all kids will meet their teacher (either in person or virtually). And many children will get to meet new friends at school. They will have a daily routine, whether that is a circle time with others or a virtual class meeting. If your child will be going to school in person on some days (or weeks) and doing online work on other days, you can talk about that now. Helping them by giving them even the few details that you may know can do a lot to ease any anxiety they may be feeling.
- Prepare your child for safety measures. Schools will be working hard to protect all of the kids and teachers. By talking to your child ahead of time about doing things to keep everyone safe, you can help prepare them for these measures. You can talk to them about how being safe is being friendly. When they follow the rules to stay safe, they are helping everyone else to stay healthy.
- Masks. Depending on your state, local or school rules, your child may need to wear a mask to school. If that is the case, talk with your child about how to safely wear a mask. Let them pick out a few masks or decorate their masks if they already have them. Practice with their masks so that are used to wearing them and taking them on and off at school. For more tips on helping kids to wear masks check out this great infographic.
- Handwashing. If your child is attending classes in person, chances are that they will be doing lots of handwashing. You can start to prepare your child now by teaching them handwashing techniques. Verywell has a nice guide for teaching younger kids how to wash their hands.
- Physical distancing. Schools are going to want children to maintain distance. While this might not sound like the best way to show friendship in normal times, in these times, it is. You can talk with your kids about how they might want to hug their friends or hold hand or give their teachers a high five but right now, they need to show how friendly they are by giving their friends and teachers space. You can combine this conversation with a conversation about germs and how to protect others from them. PBS Kids has some helpful tips about how to talk to kids about Coronavirus.
There will be a lot of changes this year at school. There is no getting around that. But you can help your child be more prepared to expect and handle these changes. Visit us all this month as we explore more ways to prepare your child for issues they are likely to face at school this year–like sharing in the time of COVID-19—and ways to stay healthy.
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Text: © Kids In Transition to School 2020
Image: © Famveldman | Dreamstime.com