Back to School: Post- COVID Edition

August is always a bitter sweet month. Summer is about to end and children are getting ready for a new school year. It is an important transition time that brings along common feelings of uncertainty and excitement at the same time. Both kids and parents feel overwhelmed with the end of carefree summer days and the beginning of new routines and schedules. I’ve always loved this time of the year, especially the annual school supplies shopping trip. My two other siblings did not feel the same way; they dreaded the week leading up to the first day of school.

Every kid reacts to change in a different way and typically there are several ways parents and family members can help ease the transition.  However this year is different, this year kids have experienced things differently in every aspect of their lives and most have been home for over a year. Most have forgotten what it feels like to buy school supplies and get excited about the first day of school and meeting up with friends you haven’t seen all summer. This year kids are wearing masks and cannot share food or play in big groups. This year is different and the summer blues have a lot more weight than they used to. Even as parents, we are all anxious and worried about our kids and community and how smooth these uncharted waters will be.

Being back in classrooms in September following a pandemic school year might be challenging but it is also a very exciting time for kids to return to a “normal” life. I’ve compiled a list of practical tips and advice from parents and teachers who had the privilege of physically attending school for a few months during the pandemic before summer break started, and I plan on using them with my children in the next two weeks leading up to the first day of school. These tips are meant to help children feel safe and welcome at school. The foundation of preparing students for school has shifted from purchasing books and supplies to psychological preparation of their mental wellbeing.

  1. Talk to your child about their feelings as school approaches and let them know that anything they are feeling is normal. Encourage your children to ask for help from their school staff and teachers at any time. Let them know they are not alone and all other children need support and help this time around. Focus on the advantages of being in school and why education is the key to their future. Talk to them about the happy days you spent at school and the everlasting friendships you made. Be positive and remind them of the beauty of learning new things and participating in fun activities.
  2. Use a clear whiteboard at home that reminds them of what they need to have in their backpack so they don’t forget anything and feel lost at school. The list should include their books or IPADS, school supplies, food, homework and anything else they might need.
  3. Start working on their sleep schedules as early as possible in the weeks leading up to the new school year so that their bodies are well rested and can function properly throughout the day. This goes hand in hand with providing healthy meals and snacks inside and outside of school.
  4. Tell your child about all the novel activities they can try at school this time around and research options together and remind them that it is okay not to love an activity or a sport anymore and offer them a safe space to share their true feelings. Remind them to use the new school year to seek out opportunities to meet people who have similar interests and make new friends.
  5. Explain the new safety rules at school and answer any questions your children have about the use of masks and hygiene and sanitary habits. Remain calm at all times even if your child challenges you and use words they will understand.
  6. Share your own school experience and assure your child that you understand if they have any anxiety about dealing with a new teacher or going to a different class where they don’t know anyone. Help them understand that this is all part of the process and they end up with new friends and unforgettable experiences that remain with you until today. Always offer comfort that you will be present to help with any difficulties they may face.

Always remember that schools are safe and inspiring places for our children to learn and grow and form their identities. Give yourself credit for the tough year you’ve had to endure with home schooling and even if the transition will be tricky, you can do it!

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