Life during the COVID-19 pandemic has come with significant adjustments for both adults and children. Prior to COVID-19, back to school came with some excitement and a level of anxiety as students prepare to tackle the upcoming school year, overall the return to school was a student’s hope to start fresh, but safety is the ultimate priority right now.
As a parent or guardian, one of the biggest challenges you’re dealing with right now is how to prepare your child to safely return to school during the pandemic. With back-to-school season, you’re facing a new, stressful question: Is it safe to send my kid back to school? No matter how many precautions are being taken at your child’s school, accumulating a group of kids into a classroom will obviously pose some level of risk.
Going back to school will probably look a little different from what you and your child are used to. Because of the evolving situation, school officials and parents will need to be flexible and ready to adapt to help keep every child safe.
How to Prepare Your Child Mentally for Going Back To School
Many parents are still unsure if they should send their children back to school. With many schools offering the option of online learning, you may decide to keep your kids in online classes. Or, knowing how important classroom learning and socialization are for your child, you may decide that you’ve done your homework when it comes to safely sending your child back to school. Whatever you choose, safety should be one of the top influencers in that decision.
First of all, talk to your children, about their feelings, before you impose your own feelings. Do an instant check about how you are feeling about it yourself, because kids can pick up on our own feelings, and it’s important to try to maintain a sense of calm regardless of your concerns. Each child will have a different experience, depending upon what this period of time has been like for them.
Further, give extra support to your child at home by creating a routine around school and schoolwork. This can help if they are worried and having trouble focusing.
With the start of a new school year, a lot of support and help from parents and teachers is needed so that each student can adjust to learning within the new “norms” while maintaining COVID19 safety guidelines.
There are also some practical things parents can start doing even if schools haven’t yet created a more proper plan. For example, you can help your kids understand the importance of social distancing and wearing masks, as well as you can help them practice these skills before school starts, and talk about how it will work in school. For example, even if they may not be up to run up and hug their friends or teachers, they can use a different, fun greeting. And for younger kids who struggle with wearing masks, help them feel easier with the idea by making it into a fun game. One idea is to say, “Your mask gives you superpowers, so you want to make sure to keep it on continually. And if you touch your face or touch someone else, that shrinks your power.” You’ll also want to talk to your kids about what to do if they don’t feel safe or other kids aren’t following the rules. They should know that they can talk to the teacher or tell you if that happens.
You may want to contact your child’s teacher or school to ask questions and stay informed. Try to stay in regular contact with your school to learn what they are doing. Then you can walk through these scenarios with your kids and discuss their questions and concerns.
What Can Schools Do?
When school buildings do reopen, buses, hallways, cafeterias and classrooms will have to look very different as long as the coronavirus remains a threat. To stay safe, there are a number of steps schools should take to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. They include:
- Alleviate the timings of the school day
- Lessen the mealtimes
- Move classes to temporary spaces or outdoors
- Hold schools in shifts, to reduce class size
- Water and hygiene facilities will be a crucial part of schools reopening safely
- Administrators should look at opportunities to improve hygiene measures, including hand-washing, respiratory etiquettes (i.e. coughing and sneezing into the elbow), physical distancing measures, cleaning procedures for facilities and safe food preparation practices.
Whether your child can return to face-to-face learning will depend on local case numbers, school boards, and your own individual assessment of the risks. It’s not an easy decision, but know that you are not alone as thousands of families across the country are making the same decisions and doing their best to adapt.