Back to School Tips for after a pandemic
Here are some tips that may be helpful as the school year starts.
• Continue to encourage your child to stay social with their friends or family. This will help them feel more connected by the time they get back to school. Ideally, this involves face-to-face connections outside, as per COVID-19 physical distancing.
• If they cannot meet face-to-face, try a video call or even write a letter to a friend.
Gradually get back into school year structure and routines. Bring up the topic that summer is ending and that school will be restarting.
• Talk about routines. You might say, “During the summer and during remote learning, you’ve had a lot more screen time than usual, but now that school is starting up again, we’re going to get back into our old routine… "
• Set a bedtime (and/or wake up time) and move it closer to what it should be for the school year.
• Set a screen curfew (a “downtime” after which point there are no screens). For example, 5-6 p.m. for school-aged kids and 8-9 p.m. for high school aged kids.
• Consider posting a family calendar with the school start date marked down, to help your family see how many days are until school starts.
• Write down the new school-year schedule, for example, wake-up time, breakfast time, school time, etc.
Normalize mask wearing. Some children will be able to wear masks easily but others may have a harder time. Consider the following strategies
• When buying a mask try giving your child some of the newer child-friendly designs to choose from or get them to help decorate a pre-made mask
• Teach distraction strategies like distracting with music, videos, and video games to help pass the time while wearing a mask.
• Practice calming strategies like deep breathing, going outside, going for a walk, etc.
• Consider motivating kids to get used to wearing a mask by pairing it with something they enjoy, like allowing video game time (within your limits) while wearing their mask.
Help your child continue to cope
• Stay connected to your kids. Kids do best when they feel loved by their caregivers, which happens when you spend quality time with them and listen, validate and empathize with their feelings (as opposed to seeing adults as being angry, upset, and emotionally unavailable to them).
• Model healthy coping. Kids do best when they learn healthy ways to cope with adversity. Such as following public health recommendations with masks and physical distancing (as opposed to unhealthy strategies such as focusing on negatives and blaming).
• Attach positive meaning to the pandemic. Kids do best when they can have a positive meaning of a situation. You might say, “On one hand, this pandemic has not been easy. On the other hand, we have been able to have a lot more fun times together. And learn new things such as how to cut each other’s hair!”
Ease your child's worries.
Does your child seem to have excessive fears and anxiety about COVID-19? COVID-19 restrictions
• Ask about their fears, and try to reassure or problem solve. Ask, "What worries you the most?"
• Validate and accept your child’s feelings about the situation. You might say, “I can see why you might be feeling (insert your child’s feelings here) about this.”
• Give your child a sense of control.
Explore in more detail. Try to listen without interrupting. Say, “Tell me more…”
• Try giving your child a sentimental object that reminds them of you, e.g. a photograph, a special piece of jewelry, etc. On the other hand, perhaps a small favorite toy car or stuffy.
The first week back to school
• Leave earlier than usual. Whether you are driving, or simply dropping off your kids at the bus stop, this will give you more flextime. It will also help ease the anxiety that comes from rushing.
• Consider working a shorter day on the first day back, so that you can pick them up earlier on the first day back, until they get used to the new routine.
• Establish a goodbye ritual. When it is time to say goodbye to your child, give them a final hug, kiss, say goodbye, and talk about when you’ll see them next. Do not just say “Goodbye!”, but also bridge the separation by talking about when you will see them next.
• Have you dropped off your child? Try to take some time just for yourself, whether it is going for a walk, to the coffee shop, having tea with a friend, or just going home to nap. Breathe a sigh of relief and savor this time.
• Check in with your children about how the day went. If your child is not ready to talk, then ask them later when they are ready. You might ask, “How did your day go?” “How did it go with wearing your mask and keeping away from people and all that?” "What was hard, what was easy?"
• If they are sad, validate the sadness: “I can see you are feeling sad and it’s ok to cry. I’m going to miss you too.” Offer comfort like a hug or offering a tissue. Crying is good because it helps the brain