With another school year almost here, all kinds of questions and doubts come to mind. This goes for all children and their parents. Needless to say, the last academic year was everything beyond what we could have imagined. It was stressful for children and parents. It all started with making a decision whether to send kids to school or do it virtually. The next was weighing pros and cons of the same and making personal arrangements to accommodate everything. Things at school were not very easy either. The children could not mingle as usual and had set areas separate for them all the time. The constant switch between in-person and virtual schooling due to lockdown added to the confusion and frustration. Let us not forget to mention the teachers – in school and virtual – who went to great lengths to ensure their students safety and learning. Some of them were not technologically inclined at all. And yet they accepted the challenge for the sake of their students and did what it took to make the academic year count. It was a steep learning curve for all teachers and students alike.
It is very natural for a feeling of anxiety to build up when we think of sending kids back to school in September. We find ourselves in a quandary once again. But, we know more today than we did in the beginning of the last academic year. We are aware of the facts and safety measures. Vaccination and masks are some of the biggest concerns most parents face. Some people choose to get their children vaccinated and some choose not to. Whichever way we choose to go, teaching our children about maintaining basic hygiene and good clean habits is a sure shot way to make sure they are safe at school. It is worth taking the time to explain to them how germs spread and what the repercussions could be. At present masks are mandatory for children older than a certain age depending on where you live. If we decide to send them to school, we have to be willing to abide by these rules until things change. Some things are still within our control to ensure a smooth transition from virtual schooling to vacation to in-person school.
1) Listen to our children.
It is important to spend some time talking to our kids and make them feel heard. They may have concerns we are not even aware of. It is important to take the time to address them and put them at ease, no matter how small their fear might seem.
2) Focus on the fun things.
If your kids are kindergarteners who are going to school the first time, read books and tell them stories about how fun school can be. Create an excitement about all the new possibilities and activities awaiting him/her.
3) Involve the kids in preparation for school
When a child is included in getting things prepared for back-to-school, it helps them to anticipate what school might be like. Let them choose what clothes they might want, shop for bag packs and lunch boxes.
4) Introduce them to their friends in advance if possible.
If you know any other kid in your neighborhood going to the same class as your child, it is a good idea to arrange a play-date and let them spend sometime together. This will help them bond and when they go to school, there will be a familiar face to ease up their anxiety.
5) Do a trial run of their routine
Have a trial run on how things would be when they go to school. If possible enroll the kids into a summer camp to give some structure to their day. If not, at least a week before school begins, let the kids wake up, get ready for the day, have their meals and snacks at the same time they will once school begins. This helps acclimate them (and the parents) to a new routine and brings a sense of familiarity when school starts.
6) Prepping for scenarios
It is a good idea to think of what scenarios might occur while our child is in school and prepare them for that. Pretend playing as a family is a good way to instill confidence in them. This can be done for something as simple as what to do if there is no more water in the water bottle or something as big as bullying. While we do not want to scare our children about being bullied, it is our responsibility to have the conversation and equip them in case it happens.
As mentioned before, children are not the only one who go through an anxious phase when school starts. This is also true for parents – parents of first time kindergarteners and all parents who homeschooled last year. Sending our children to school not knowing how safe they are, being constantly worried about their health and safety, wondering if they are doing what they have been told to maintain distance – this comes with its own share of stress.
But we need to understand something – children feed off of our energy. There is no point in telling them that everything will be ok if we ourselves do not believe in it. Being concerned about our children comes as a package when we become parents. There are ways to curb the stress and anxiety we might feel.
1) Be informed
It is important to be informed about what is going on around. Read more here about Canadian School Guidelines. Talk to teachers or principals about how they take care of things at school. If possible arrange a virtual tour and involve your child in it.
2) Create a backup plan
Just like we would do for our children, we can think of possible scenarios (without overwhelming) and have a written plan available. This can help to get ahead and put our minds at ease knowing that any adverse situation would be in our control.
3) Create a support system
Similarly to having our kids meet their classmates before hand to enable familiarity, we can create a network of parents who have kids in the same class and keep in touch frequently. If need arises, it is nice to know other people in a similar situation and support one another.
4) Think positive
Most importantly, think positive. Find the silver lining in the situation. When we as parents are less overwhelmed with responsibilities of homeschooling, it gives us a chance to do other things with our kids. With smaller groups, the children will benefit from focussed attention and more opportunities.
If your children will be going to school this academic year, it is a huge adjustment on their part and yours as well. Pace it slowly, trust your instinct and take things one at a time. Every parent knows what is best for their child and will do their best to take care of them. If you are a university student and would like to know how to re-adjust going back to college, click here.
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Written By: Kritika Rao