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Preparing Your Child to Go Back to School in Person.

Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

For families, two events would be happening about the same time, this fall. Kids will be going back to school in person and parents are expected to return to their offices either part time or full time.

 

From one perspective, it is just normal to what was before the pandemic. But from the perspective of the families that ahs adjusted to the remote work from home or hybrid schedule, this is a major break from what has become normal. It means you will have new routine, new expectation each day, new activities that need to be planned and will definitely come up with new stress.

 

Are you feeling anxious?

There is definitely this anxiety about balancing things that I feel as a parent. After more than a year of multi-tasking from home, for better or for worse, the prospect of getting everyone out of the door early morning and ranging full series of activities is really daunting.

When we went into the lockdown mode, there was lot of anxiety and worry about how we will manage working from home and school for our kids at the very same time. Now its kind of opposite. How are we going to manage commuting and drop off and everybody’s schedule outside home? And there is a lot of

Kids are out of practice of dealing full day and full week of in person school and parents are out of practice of commuting to their office. The beginning of school year has always been the time for some new adjustment and routines and usually cause lot of anxiety in kids. But now I think that is going to be amplified to lot of kids because its going to be long day for those who have been used to shorter days, intermittent study time and lighter demands.

One thing as a parent I would recommend you not to make all these changes at the same time. I would recommend parents to start going to their offices occasionally before school resumes, so that the kids who are nervous about separating will get used mom and dad coming and going again.

For those who had anxiety before the pandemic, last year was a relief from that stress. For them I foresee the huge adjustment for these kids going back to school potentially with the school refusal in the beginning. For making things easier, I would advice parents and care givers to plan things ahead now, whether that involves visiting the school now, or meeting with teachers and staff in order to make your child comfortable or just to put the plan in place for fall.

It is advised by Caroline Mendel, PsyD, a clinical psychologist from Child Mind Institute to increase kids’ social exposure gradually during summer. You can start with playdate, and then to the playground with slightly bigger group of kids. It will eventually be like riding a bike, but you have got to get that practice in. It is like with math: If no one does it over the summer, they lose all of that. So, expect that there are going to be social hiccups, and that is okay. It is normal for everybody.

 

Here are some ways to help children with return.

 

1. Prepare them for change.

The school your children are returning to probably will not look like the one they left. Prepare them for what they are about to see and feel. We need to let them know that there will be mask, distance between friends, perhaps plexiglass dividers and a different lunchtime and recess than they had when school shuttered.

One of the biggest things that will contribute to a child’s anxiety on the return to school and life outside of shutdowns is all the uncertainty. The more information kids have at the appropriate developmental level, the better.

It is also very important, to also keep your anxieties in check. Kids are very impressionable and is going to follow your lead. We should not transmit our own fears but should empower our kids with the tools they need to know to be safe in school.

 

2. Help them work their social muscles.

This pandemic has taken toll on kids on those who have missed out their social interaction at all. So, it is really important for us to bring our kids together with friends in the safe way as much as possible before the school start in person. That way, easing back in might be simpler.

 

3. Provide routine and structure.

“It’s important to think about the way we parent, and very often, we don’t. We think about it when our kids are in trouble instead of preparing,” Koplewicz, Founder of Child Mind institute, says. Parents should, he said, be the “scaffold” that protects and guides children as they grow, but “not impede learning and risk-taking as they grow up.”

 

Sources of stability will help them feel supported in this wild time: Make sure that your kids have routines and know the house rules, and that you clearly communicate all of this with them.

Even though everything is remote now, you still can get your children get into routine. Have then wake up at their usual school time, eat breakfast and brush their teeth even though they are working on their desk at home. Kids usually follow what their parents do. If parents are working in their pajamas the whole day, then its not structure.

 

The best thing that a parent can do is “just checking in with yourself, recognizing your own stress and anxiety, modeling handling that for your child, naming it and taking a step back and trying to use some skills.”

 

I would like to say to the parents who are worried that they have done “back to school” before. “It’s a bit amplified, but you’ve done this before. We all take a break over the summer and then you go back in the fall. We’ve done many versions of this before.”

Happy Parenting!

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