Back to School During Covid19: How to Help Your Children/Teens Prepare.

Sadly, school is not going to be once it once was prior to Covid19.  Schools all around the country are trying their best to figure out the best path to take when it comes to bringing students back to school in a safe and structured way.  Most elementary schools are having children come back 5 days a week, while other schools are doing hybrid structures of some days online and some in-person, while others are completely virtual.  Whichever version of this your child’s school has chosen, it will still be a drastic change from normal school years in the past.  In this blog post, we discuss ways to help your child or teen prepare for the transition back to school and how to help them be successful as well as healthy and happy.

1.) Stick to a Schedule

This may seem like a given but stick to a schedule!  Whether or not your child or teen is in school or working from home, they need to put on a regular schedule of some sort.  This means waking up at the same time each day, having breakfast, getting them dropped off at school or started on their computer.  If they are working virtual, we suggest having small breaks throughout the day at scheduled times.  This will keep the child from wanting to have screen time or taking a longer “snack” break than usual.  We suggest designating times for certain activities throughout the day until a normal school day would end.  Don’t forget about outside time implemented in this schedule – even if this means time in the backyard, a bike ride around the neighborhood, etc.  Just like regular school, recess is in session!

2.) Use Social Stories

For younger kiddos, we suggest creating a visual social story that explains to the child the changes happening at school this year due to Covid19.  This can be a small story that explains having to wash your hands, wearing a mask throughout the day, and social distancing.  It can be created using pictures to help your young one understand the changes.  After all, children are more visual and remember better when they see something.  These social stories can be short, sweet, to the point, and highly effective.

3.) Set Regular Social Gatherings and Play Dates

Obviously, socialization may be limited due to many of the schools being virtual.  Due to this, it is important to make sure your teens regularly schedule times to get together with friends on the weekends and to be proactive about putting things on the calendar.  For the smaller kiddos, plan some small play dates with friends every weekend for them to interact with their classmates/peers.  Especially among teens, becoming too isolated may cause emotional concerns, therefore social interaction is key.

4.) Be Organized

To help your teen or child feel more secure with all the changes at school, try your very best to be organized and for them to be as well.  This means always having your child carry an extra face mask or hand sanitizer in their backpack.  Having these back ups will help a teen and child feel at ease in case they worry they will forget something or lose something at school.  Basically, extra everything – pencils, pens, etc.  Now may not be the best time for your child to have to ask to borrow something in class.

5.) Discuss the Importance of Hygiene

This one may seem pretty basic but it’s a very important one during Covid19 and just in general.  Remind your children to use their hand sanitizer after using something that the majority of the classmates have used.  Remind them to wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.  If they have to cough or sneeze, tell them the proper way to do so by coughing into a tissue or their elbow.  And last but not lease, remind them to wear their masks.

6.) Prepare for Plan B

As we’ve heard, the back to school plan may backfire and it may backfire sooner than we think!  If this is the case, be proactive with your child and remind them that if there is a Covid19 case in their school, they will most likely have to go back to virtual schooling.  As a plan B, let your child know what you will do as a family if this is to happen.  That way, if it does occur, it will not be an overly difficult transition or adjustment.

7.) Encourage More Mask Wearing Prior to School

Since most children will have to be in a mask for the entire school day if they are doing in-person, this is surely to be difficult at times.  To make the adjustment easier, we suggest the closer school gets to starting, encourage your child to wear their mask around the house for certain time intervals throughout the day.  This may help them to get used to it so the adjustment at school isn’t as hard, scary, and/or uncomfortable.

8.) Have fun!

This is probably the most important point.  Make sure to have fun with your child and teenager.  Tell them how proud you are of them for being troopers and getting through these difficult times.  This has not been an easy walk in the park for any of us, let alone the children and teens out there.  Their worlds have been completely flipped upside down and they are handling it like champs.  Try to have fun with them outside of school, plan game nights and family time together.  Make sure they are praised for their efforts and remind them that this won’t last forever.

9.) Communicate

Make sure you are communicating frequently with your child and check in on their feelings.  Remind them that they are safe to talk to you about how they feel and be there to provide reassurance if they need it.  Talking through these feelings is important, especially more than ever before.  Having talks before bed can be helpful, snuggling up on the couch, and asking how they are doing is extremely important.  Remember, even if your child seems fine, they may be struggling.  It’s always beneficial to check in here and there just to be sure.

10.) Take Care of You

Don’t forget, as the parent, you are still human and you need to be sure you are also handling your stressors. After all, you are probably the one juggling and balancing all of the changes in the household, getting kids to school on time, etc.  Make sure you are doing things to de-stress, talking with friends/significant others, eating right, exercising, and using regular self care.

Keep in mind, if you need any further assistance during this time, we are here to support you and your loved ones.  This is a challenging time for all but help is not far away.  Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you or your child/teen is struggling.  Our clinicians are trained to provide effective strategies for handling stress, anxiety, depression, and hard transitions such as these. Feel free to contact us if you have any additional questions!