As back to school time has either already began or is about to begin across the country, we finally have a sense of what school will look like during a pandemic. Whether your child will be attending school in-person, attending virtually, or has a hybrid schedule, this new “normal” will take some adjusting for parents, students, teachers and school staff alike.
John Ritzenthaler Company has compiled some tips for making this year’s back to school experience a little easier:
- Encourage proper hygiene in your children: Encourage hand washing often for your children and have some fun with it by singing a song or telling some jokes while they wash up. Establish consistent house rules about hand washing, including every time before family members leave the home and come into the home from outside, before and after eating, after going to the bathroom, playing outside, etc.
- Mask etiquette: Teach your children how to wear their mask or shield properly as this is probably required for their school (be sure they remove them using the ear straps instead of the fabric for optimal hygiene!). Encourage them to practice wearing masks for short periods at home and especially when they are out in public, gradually increasing the amount of time that they can tolerate wearing the mask. Plan to supply your children with extra masks for school and consider labeling them with their name in case they get misplaced. Children need to hear from their parent(s) that masks are one of the best ways to protect ourselves and others from getting COVID-19. Learn more about how to make your own no-sew face mask here.
- Create a quiet place dedicated to schoolwork only: If you have not already, this is a good time to establish a quiet, designated learning area in your home for your child. Stock it with all the necessary supplies for them to complete their schoolwork. This will also help them to separate school time from family/home time.
- Keep reading: Keep reading to younger children and encourage older children to read books of their choice during this time as a way to learn and de-stress. Some helpful resources are school and library reading lists.
- Get back on a regular sleep schedule: Many children have been on (understandably) a different sleep schedule throughout the pandemic. They are likely going to bed later and getting up later in the morning. Now that September is here, try to follow a consistent bedtime routine and avoid electronics close to bedtime.
- School may remain virtual for some children: Some families may decide not to send their children to school this season for various reasons. Explain to your children that every family is different and that household members’ medical conditions and other factors influence parental decisions about returning to school.
- Prevent separation anxiety: After spending many long months at home, children may feel nervous about going back to school and being apart from family members that they have gotten used to being home with daily. Have conversations about going back to school and try to develop tools for your child to feel connected to home, such as notes in their lunchbox or a family photo or trinket they can bring to school.
- Have conversations and be open: Having open, age-appropriate conversations with your children will help them know they are not alone. Flexibility is very important in this time of COVID-19 and children will most likely have my questions. It is important to let them know that you and other people in their lives are doing everything possible to ensure their health and safety. Talk with your children and help them understand that anyone can get the virus, no matter where they are from in the world. This is important to reduce any potential stereotypes and ensure compassion and equity in both the classroom and beyond.
- Be available and patient: Your children may react to changes in the school in various ways. Be ready for some behavior changes — such as acting out in younger children and quietness in teens. Remember to always take time to listen to your child’s feelings about their day and remind them that they can always come to you.
We hope these tips prove to be helpful to you during this time. Preparing children for back to school this year will be different, yet some things, such as flexibility, sleep and family support, remain the same. If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s mental or physical health, contact your pediatrician right away. Good luck and stay safe!
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