Back to School During Coronavirus: Preparing Your Child

Author: one tough job

As all schools re-open for in-person learning, full-time or in a hybrid, your child will be going back to school after months of being at home. Some children will be very excited about going back to school building and seeing their friends. However, many children will feel ambivalent or apprehension about in-person school. It’s normal for your child to feel this way. Here’s how you can help to ease this transition back-to-school.

If your child is scheduled to return to in-person learning

Prepare ahead of time with your child – bookbag, masks, snacks if they’re allowed to have them at school, their own water bottle. Take note of where your child seems to engage in preparation and where they seem disengaged. Our children often cue us as to what they are afraid of by avoiding it, so if they don’t want to prepare for school, take that as an opportunity to ask them how they are feeling. For younger children, incorporate more seated time reading or doing coloring books together. This will help them acclimate to longer stretches of sitting in place that are required once they get back to the classroom.

If your child has already begun in-person learning

Consider checking in with your child and opening the conversation: try an open-ended question like “if you could change one thing about school right now, what would it be?” You may need to ask open-ended questions like this rather than going right to “How are you feeling.” Consider starting this conversation rather than waiting on your child to speak up, since many children learn that part of growing up is to ‘put on a brave face’, even if they are in discomfort. Be that safe home base for your child.

For all children, now and upcoming.

Regardless of whether your child is slated to go back tomorrow, next month, or is already in school, embrace your role as a trusted person they can share their concerns and frustrations with. If they express doubts about school, do your best to avoid jumping to ‘solve’ the concerns by reassuring them “everything will be fine.” Instead, invite them to say more, or try affirming them by saying, “I hear that you’re feeling worried. That’s a tough feeling, and it’s brave of you to feel it. Would you like to [insert activity your child enjoys] right now. Would that help?”

Feelings are bound to happen, for both you and your child, in this monumental shift in daily living. Even if in-person learning was the norm before the pandemic, it’s ok to feel confused or anxious about this newest return. Showing your child that it’s ok for them to feel complex feelings and share them with you will go a long way in keeping them happy, healthy, and safe.

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