Is your discussion at the family dinner table revolved around reopening schools in the fall? Are you worried that your children may catch the virus or bring it home if they attend school in September? Are you tired of seeing posts on Facebook about the reopening of schools and people arguing about what is right?
You may be wondering how your family is going to transition during the fall. Is your child going to be able to wear a mask for several hours at school? If all virtual learning is an option then how is your child's social/emotional health going to be impacted? Frankly, the coronavirus is everywhere and it has made decisions harder for families.
Many parents are having a hard time deciding whether to send their children to school come September or have them stay home and learn virtually. Each family has different opinions based on their individual feelings and circumstance. Some families need schools to reopen because parents need to go back to work. Other families believe that sending their children to school is dangerous. No matter what side of the fence you're on, there has been some major anxiety about the fall. As parents, it is important to model how to react to stressful times by coping with this coronavirus anxiety in the most effective way possible. It is important not to let ourselves think in the worst-case scenario. Also remember, your children are always watching!
Abby is going to be a 2nd grader in the fall. She is extremely eager to get back to school and see her classmates. Abby does not fully understand that transitioning back to school will be different than the previous year. Abby's school district has made guidelines for staff and students. Students will have to wear masks, sit in desks 6 feet apart, and social distance during recess and lunch.
Abby's parents do not think that sending her to school is the right thing to do. They don't think that that Abby will be comfortable following the guidelines. They believe Abby would be safer in the comfort of her own home. At dinner, Abby hears her parent's concerns and complaints around the school in the fall. Abby becomes fearful and no longer wants to transition to 2nd grade. All of Abby's excitement has been ripped out of her. Abby becomes anxious and cannot sleep leading up to school. Abby becomes worried about catching the virus since that is all her parents are talking about. Soon, Abby becomes fearful and anxious about her social environment.
Here are some tips on how to stay calm as policymakers begin to make decisions about schooling.
1.) Don't believe everything you read. It is important to stay informed and up to date on the coronavirus but we should make sure what we are reading is actually helpful. It is easy to get sucked into what we are reading but it might not be true. Also, consider putting a limit to the media or reading.
2.) Be careful what you say in front of your children. Like I said, children are watching and listening to everything. They pick up on anxiousness and worrying behavior. If you feel anxious about school, they will feel anxious. Make conversations like these more private and support their transition to the fall. Don't share your worries with your child!
3.) Structure your child's day. If the decision is to keep your child home in the fall, make a structured schedule for school, chores, exercise, school work, lunch, and fun!. Have your child go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
4) Create boundaries at home between school and play. If your child is doing remote learning whether it be full-time or part-time create a separate space in the house for school. You can even set it up and decorate it like a classroom. Be creative, think out of the box to make the transition more fun. This way your child can feel more like they are at school.
5.) Check-in with your children often. Ask them how they feel about heading back to school. Although children do not share their feelings with words, check on their behavior. Notice if they are having trouble sleeping or if they are irritable.
6) Practice self-care. As they say on a plane, put your oxygen mask on first because if you run out of oxygen you can't help others. Make sure you take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, eating healthy, exercising, and practicing mindfulness.
No matter what the decision is for the fall, it is important to stay calm. Not everyone is going to agree with the transition of the fall. Some may like it more than others. Some parents may feel relieved to have their children go back to school while others may feel anxious.
If you feel like you or your family may need support with the transition please reach out.