How to Get Ready for Back to School During COVID
Gearing up for another back to school impacted by the pandemic? As a parent, one of the biggest fears and challenges is how to let your kid be a kid safely during a pandemic. While sending your kid back to school, there are a lot of things you need to prepare for - physically and mentally. Making a smooth transition into school during a pandemic is essential for you and your kids. Here are some ways you can get your child ready for back to school:
1. Establish a routine: After months of remote learning and the summertime hiatus from school, many children will struggle with getting into a new routine. Families may also find it difficult to adjust and align their schedules, especially with a mix of online and in-person learning being used by many school districts. Establishing normalcy is a must in your child’s daily life and a routine will help with just that. Create a calendar for you and your kid and set goals during the day for them to anchor themselves and meet these goals.
2. Reinforce everyday precautions: Educating your kids on the signs and symptoms of this virus is essential. Since they won’t be in your sight while they are at school, you must prepare them for the classroom. Teach them about social distancing. Kids will be excited to see their friends after a while but for now their enthusiasm needs to be precautionary. They need to wear a mask at all times especially when social distancing can be a challenge at times in a packed classroom. Ensure they remember to wash their hands frequently. Teach your kids to wash their hands to the rhythm of a song which will help them remember for how long they need to wash their hands.
3. Teach them about the new normal: Getting back to the outside world means temperature checks, masks on and more such changes to our everyday lives. Help them normalize and get accustomed to this changing environment and changing possibilities. We also need to prepare our kids for changes in schedule. Going to school for a few weeks or months and then going back to remote learning is a very real possibility in the current scenario. We need to prepare our kids mentally and emotionally.
4. Determine what you’ll need for school: Back to school supplies will definitely look different now. Adding to the usual books, we have hand sanitisers, extra masks and ensuring you have good materials for remote learning if quarantine is required.
5. Prep for safer extracurriculars: Extracurriculars will be modified to be safer for kids. It is important to not give up on extracurriculars like sports, dance and more. Prep your kids for safer habits during these activities.
6. Socialise again with other children: During the time of stay-home, children around the country have halted playdates and socializing in-person with their peers. While this was essential for health reasons and to help slow the spread of the virus, it can make it tricky when students are back in the classroom with their friends and peers. Now is the time to reorient children to socializing in a safe way. Choose a family you know and trust to have a physically distanced picnic at the school playground or a local park. Most children will bounce back to socializing, but it might be helpful for them to do so with a parent present first, before school starts. This is also a great opportunity to teach your kids about social distancing and the importance of wearing masks when they are socialising with friends in your presence.
7. Prevent separation anxiety: After spending many long months at home, children may feel nervous about going back to school and being apart from their family. Communicate with your kids about how they feel 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 they can bring to school.
8. Give them time to adjust: Shifting from remote learning to a noisy classroom can be a major shift for some children. It will take them some time to adjust to the new normal with increased rules during school, the distractions of classmates, and everything else that comes with a school day. Help them deal with stress in healthy ways and give them time to cope with their surroundings.
As a parent, you are your child’s confidante and it is therefore important that your child feels comfortable expressing any concerns or anxiety he or she may have about returning to school during the pandemic. Being vulnerable is hard, though, so you may need to be the one to initiate the conversation if the topic does not come up on its own. Whether your child is concerned about having to wear a mask all day or what might happen if there's a confirmed case at school, make sure you're listening intently, empathizing often and helping your child cope with his or her feelings in a reassuring manner.
Preparing children for back-to-school this year will be different, yet some things, such as flexibility, sleep and support, remain the same. Listen to your kid and educate. Be the role model for your kids and participate in the everyday precautions yourself. It is important for you as a parent to model positive behaviors to improve mood and coping skills, which includes taking care of yourself.
Back to school is an exciting time for kids everywhere and even though it is not the traditional setup, kids will be excited for a time filled with learning and friends. Having open, age-appropriate conversations with your children will help them know they are not alone, that we do not have all the answers, that flexibility is very important in this time of COVID-19. Make sure you prepare your kids for the outside world, physically and mentally. And always remember, there is no right or wrong way to go about returning to school in these stressful times. Trust your instincts, and make a decision that feels right for your circumstances.