Many students are returning to school this month and may feel a mixture of nervousness and excitement to return to “normal.” While back to school season comes with familiarity, this year will certainly be a different experience.
As a parent, communication is key to navigating this transition. With the absence of information, children will create their own stories about the world around them, so it is important to give them an opportunity to ask questions. After giving a thoughtful and informative answer, it is a good opportunity to discuss how they are feeling.
Asking your child open-ended questions like “what was the hardest part of your day,” instead of questions that can be answered with a yes or no will lead to a deeper discussion about their feelings. Ask what they are excited about and what they think will be different from school last year.
Having an open line of communication will set you up for success if your child learns about different approaches to social distancing or mask wearing from their peers. It may be helpful to remind children that while everyone must follow the same school rules, some families have different rules at home. Providing examples of other non-COVID related family rules such as screen time could help normalize this for your child.
Before their first class, it is helpful to talk through and prepare for the different safety precautions they will encounter at school. Be specific when you discuss the new aspects of school life. For example, instead of saying “school is requiring masks” it is better to say “most of the day at school you will wear a mask, like in the classroom, in hallways and on the bus. When you are eating or drinking at school you can take your mask off.”
Depending on your child’s developmental level, it can be helpful to talk through their worries with an emphasis on the ways that the people around them are working to approach challenges. We want to equip children to be resilient and prepared to manage uncertainty or disruption in their lives, rather than shielding them from any evidence of concern.
The playbook for parenthood has changed dramatically as we try to respond to this current set of challenges. It is important to have compassion for yourself as you try to move forward -- and remember, it’s okay to not have all the answers.
If you or your family need additional emotional support, our expert therapists and professional counselors can help. Call us at 855.275.5237.