As September is around the corner, the discussion of school starting again is most likely in everyone’s minds. After finishing the last school year virtually, will you be sending your child to school come September or keeping them home to attempt virtual learning once more? There is no right or wrong answer here, but no matter what your September looks like, it will most likely look and feel a lot different than most years.
Putting aside precautions that now need to be taken due to COVID-19, and the arrangements families are taking to keep themselves safe during the school year, there may be other issues that come up as we come close to the school year. Some children may feel anxiety about going back to school, about seeing friends and teachers, about leaving their parents’/caregivers’ sides (caregivers, this might be something you’re feeling too!). There might be a loss of routine/schedule that needs to be rebuilt before heading back to school, and for some children who might have additional needs, this might mean connecting with teachers to remind them of the accommodations they need.
As with adjustment to anything, RE-adjustment after this disruption in our “normal” lives might take some time. Consider the things that you may have done to help transition your child into kindergarten, into a new school, or into a higher level grade. Whatever your strategy might be to help get ready to go back to school, remember to be patient and kind; to your child, your family, your school and yourself. Transition is tough for everyone – emotions might get high, things might seem overwhelming, and excitement that your child might have in going back to school to see their friends and teachers might change from day to day.
Here are a couple tiny tips to help start the transition back to school, whether your children are going back to in person school or into online learning.
Start talking about going back to school
Whether your child is going back to school in person or online, there still will be some anticipation into what September will look like, and there will most definitely be a change in schedule/routine. Children understand more than some people think, and can often pick up on anxieties or anticipation that comes with transition. Let them know what the plan is, even if that just means reminding them it is August and September means that they will be doing some school work.
Talk about the different choices for September
As a parent/caregiver, you are the one making the choices about sending your child back to in person schooling or keeping them home for online learning, but keep them up to date with what is going on. Let them know before September that they are staying home to learn, or that if they’re going back to school in person, some friends might not be there because they’re staying home. As a daycare teacher, I know that many young children can understand some complex information if it’s explained in simple terms – I’ve had children explain to me their parents were divorced, that their parent was sick, etc. Let them know what the plan is, and that some friends might be doing something different because their parents made a different choice. You most likely will have to have this conversation at some point because come September, your observant child will start asking questions when things feel different.
Start practicing being in a routine a few weeks before school starts
Has your child been sleeping in way later than the time school might start? Or perhaps is eating later or earlier than school meal times? Or perhaps they wake up and stay in pajamas all day? While there’s no problem with that during the summer and while we’ve been home during quarantine (we all love a good sleep in or cozy PJ day!), school starting means there will be more of a schedule. Start easing your way into that routine by perhaps enforcing a bit more of a curfew each night, getting your child to wake up a bit earlier each day, and practice getting dressed at least a couple days a week. Even slowly starting to serve breakfast and lunch meals closer to the school meal times can be helpful! A gradual transition back into a school schedule can be helpful for in person and online schooling, so that children are ready to focus on their learning.
Talk about and practice COVID-19 protocols with your child before school starts
With health information changing constantly, you might not have a finalized back to school plan to follow just yet, but there are some things you can start working on with your child to prepare them to head back to the classroom. Practice good hand washing routines at home and explain to your child when they should be washing or sanitizing their hands (entering and exiting buildings, before and after meals, if they touch their face etc). Talk about hygiene practices that are especially important during this time, such as not sharing a water bottle, keeping your hands out of your nose and mouth and not putting toys near your mouth.
If your child will be wearing a mask in the classroom (some grades are required, other grades will be encouraged so it’s best to get them ready regardless), start practicing wearing a mask. I have written a blog post about preparing your child to wear their mask, which you can find here. If you haven’t been to a park or public place where other children are, and haven’t had to talk about physical distancing yet, talk about why that’s a new rule and how it is important to follow in the classroom and during playtime/recess. There are a lot of protocols and new rules to think about, so don’t worry if your child doesn’t remember them all right away. But remember that the sooner you start talking about these things, the easier they will adjust to being back to school when they are being reminded of new rules by their teachers.
This is a strange time for everyone, and everyone has been through different forms of anxiety and stress, whether they are parents or not, so please remember that when sending your child back to school you should be kind to everyone during this transition. Teachers, school administration and support staff are doing their best with the Ontario guidelines to make back to school as safe and beneficial as possible.
In the next few weeks I will continue to share more topics about going back to school – as a parent, caregiver, what do you think is important to learn? As a teacher, school administrator or therapist, what kind of tips or back to school skills do you think are important to talk about before September rolls around? Leave your questions or comments below 🙂
Note: I have also previously shared this blog at Willow OT , the Ontario based Occupational Therapy service I am associated with.