The COVID-19 Pandemic not only forced adults to quickly adjust to a “new normal,” our kids were also tossed into a whirlwind of changes, from homeschooling to sports cancelations, limited peer interactions, and wearing masks. These changes may have brought on an increase in negative feelings such as depression, frustration, stress, and hopelessness. Parents and caregivers need to understand and pay attention to how it could be affecting them, especially with the new school year approaching. Below are some helpful tips for parents to prepare themselves and their children for a successful transition back to school.
- Throw out the “do as I say, not as I do” adage. Kids learn by watching. It is essential to follow and model recommendations to help protect your family from COVID-19. This includes wearing a mask, washing your hands, and social distancing. Have your kids practice wearing a mask now before school starts and wear it at different times throughout the day. Doing this will help prepare them for the classroom.
- Create a safe space at home. Take time each day to create quality connections with your child to help them feel safe and at ease during these chaotic times. This includes modeling confident and calm behavior, along with providing structure. Family time spent around meals allows for time to check in about everyone’s day and just be present. Homework time, bedtime, and even game time are also good ways for families to build a grounded foundation and for kids to learn consistency and structure through routines.
- Be accessible and patient as much as you can. Take time for self-care, so you are rested when your child or children need help and support.
- Choose your battles when it comes to homework. Do not engage in an argument if it’ll jeopardize your relationship with your child. It’s not worth it. Homework is important, and it will get done, so put it aside if need be and come back to it when all is calm. The same goes for high school-age children.
- Don’t put too low or too high expectations on your kids. Constant negative feedback can fester deep within and cause significant distress in kids and could stay with them for years to come.
- Establish a routine early on by getting your kids back on schedule a week or two before school begins. Create a consistent routine to ensure your kids get enough rest with a normal “back to school” bedtime and wake time, as well as hygiene and homework time.
- Set aside time for an organized “homework session” each evening. This allows you to be involved in your kid’s learning. For example: make a space in a quiet area to work, check the day’s assignments, and provide any guidance. Work with your child to develop a plan for getting homework done, and assignments turned in on time.
- Talk to your children. Take time every day to engage in conversations around you’re your children’s concerns are with going back to school. But don’t disregard the positives such as what are they excited about and looking forward to this year? Keeping those communication lines open to talk about these challenges and new experiences make for a healthy relationship.
Teenagers tend to part from “family time” to embark on new adventures with their peers, continue to attempt family time by having a “family movie night” or “family game night.” Empower them by giving them choices. For example, let them choose the movie, game, or even the music in the car, but also understand the importance of privacy and time alone as they grow and mature into young adults and begin to invest more time with their peers.
As far as deciding to send your kids back to brick and mortar or take the option of distance learning, there is no right or wrong decision. All you can do is make the best decision possible with the currently available information and what is in the best interest of you and your family.
If you notice your child struggling emotionally or behaviorally, showing signs of extreme anxiety, or having unusual difficulties in school, please discuss these concerns with your child’s teacher to advise you in an appropriate action plan.
On average, one in six youth ages 6-17 experience a mental health condition. Unfortunately, these numbers have been increasing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mental health providers help both adults and children work through any mental health issues they may be experiencing. I see patients at Johnson Memorial Health Services on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. To schedule an appointment with me, Lisa Kuechenmeister, Licensed Therapist, call 320-769-4393.