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Navigating Back to School During COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has been disruptive to our daily lives, especially for children. With last school year being cut short, a return to school this Fall either in-person, remote, or as a hybrid will be welcome and exciting for most students. However, with the drastic changes that are probable with any scenario, other children may be feeling scared or anxious. There are many ways you can help your children work through these feelings and navigate a return to learning.  

How can I help my child feel more comfortable with all the changes?

A new school year is stressful even when we’re not in the midst of a global pandemic. Have an open and honest conversation with your child if you notice that they are worried or feeling anxious about starting school again. Let them know that it’s okay to feel these feelings. Go through some of the changes that your child can expect such as needing to wear a mask or be physically distant from teachers and classmates. Encourage them to think of creative ways to make these changes easier. It could be a variety of fun masks to wear, ways to connect with friends while being distant, or ways they can encourage their teachers. 

Talk to your child about the ways we stay healthy and prevent the spread of germs through proper hand-washing, coughing and sneezing into their elbow, and wearing a mask if required. Remind them that although these changes may seem scary or different, they are important to help others. 

What can I do to make my child less anxious about wearing protective clothing?

If your school is recommending face masks or shields, talk to them about why we must wear them. Reassure them that it is healthy to have feelings of worry or frustration about wearing masks, but that the masks are being required to help keep others in your community safe. You can encourage wearing masks or shields by purchasing masks together and choosing fun prints or colors to make the process easier and more exciting.

How can I help my child feel more connected and less isolated from friends?

If your child is nervous about being distant or separated from friends, help to reassure them that this time isn’t going to last forever. Be upfront that it is possible that schools may close again so they can be prepared for that scenario. Think of fun ways that your child can still connect with friends or classmates outside of school, whether that’s in person or from home. Research safe online programs and social media networks your child can use with their friends. Consider taking advantage of video games that can be played together remotely as another alternative method of allowing your child to play with friends.

If online bullying is a concern, let them know they can talk to you or another adult about any situation they encounter. Check-in with your child periodically about how they’re doing with school changes and online activities. If you do not have an overly expressive child, be on the lookout for physical signs of stress or abnormal behavior that may indicate something is wrong.
If online learning and social media are new, have conversations with your child about staying safe online. Discuss how they can communicate with others and what appropriate online interactions look like. Look at your school’s computer policies together if you are using a school computer and familiarize yourself with the school’s bullying policies.
How should I check-in on my child or what should I be on the look-out for?

Be proactive rather than reactive. Have regular interactions with your child such as engaging in creative activities, games, or doing hobbies or chores together. Your child’s emotions may be a roller-coaster right now and having a safe, positive environment can help them feel more comfortable expressing difficult feelings. Support and empathy go a long way. Children take emotional cues from important adults in their life, so be sure to try and manage your own mental health as well. If you need help, reach out. We’re here to support you and your family during this time.

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