Resuming School During Coronavirus: 10 Parenting Tips
Updated: Jul 28, 2020
As the schools are reopening for the next academic year, parents everywhere have to be prepared to support their children. Some children might be looking forward to virtual learning while some might not like it. They might have expected a regular academic year with in-person classrooms and might be disappointed. A virtual school sends a message that all is not well yet. It might create increased anxiety and fear in some children. There is a sense of loss of routine, social interactions, and a safe learning environment.
COVID-19 has impacted children in many ways. In some cases, where the in-person school is planned children might not be ready to go to school due to fear and anxiety. After spending 4 months at home with parents, some young children might suffer from separation anxiety mixed with fear. Children can sense abnormality but they are not always able to express it. They get confused and overly sensitive. Some kids might act out, be irritable and some might shut down: unwilling to participate in activities, exhibiting lack of interest in play, or clinginess.
As a parent, you may be experiencing mixed feelings too. You might be anxious about how to balance your work, chores, and being active in your children’s virtual school. If you have elementary school kids, then they might need more handholding than middle-schoolers. You might be worried about how much actual learning is going to happen or if your children will lag behind. Still, you might not be comfortable sending your kids to school yet. Your stress level is probably high.
Here are a few tips to help with the transition -
Be proactive - Start talking to your children about what to expect. Resume the school-day routine with regular meals, bedtimes, and scheduled activities.
Provide avenues of expression - Children express their feelings and thoughts through play. Provide opportunities such as art material, Kinetic sand, and puppets to help children express their anxiety, fears, and confusion.
Use active listening and non-judgmental responses - Do not dismiss or undermine children’s feelings. Reflect it back to them to let them know that you have heard them. Focus on the children when they are talking to you. Provide vocabulary if necessary. “Seems like you miss your school friends. You are feeling lonely.” “You are worried about getting the virus.” Acknowledge that this situation does not feel normal.
Engage in an open discussion about the changing situation - Children are always listening to adults. They might have heard you discussing the school choices with your spouse or a friend. They can sense the worry and uncertainty but do not know how to deal with it. Get at your child’s level and try to explain the situation simply. Stay with the facts. If you do not know all the answers, admit it.
Show your love and care overtly - Safety is most important for children. They want to know that they and the people they love are safe. Talk about safety measures. Remind and reassure them by being a role model. Hug them tighter and hold them close. Actions speak louder than words.
Support children with virtual school - Depending on their age group, children have varied attention spans. Keeping them engaged in virtual learning can be challenging. Focusing on a screen can get tiring for the eyes. Although kids are used to being on the screen, virtual school is not the same. Coax and encourage them by focusing on their strengths. Monitor their participation in the virtual classroom. Use stress balls or fidget toys to help them focus. Teaching children simple mindfulness exercises can increase their focus.
Get support - Ask for help from family and friends. You and your kids need a break from each other. You can arrange for a buddy system where you and your friend can take turns watching each other's children one or two days a week. This way children will get buddies even if that means doing virtual school together, and you can focus on your work too. Be mindful of who you choose for this. Make sure they are following all the guidelines and safety measures for COVID-19.
Compassion towards teachers - Remember that this is as challenging for the teachers as it is for you. They are dealing with the uncertainty and anxiety about preparing and completing a virtual curriculum. Most of the teachers are trained for classroom teaching, so they are also learning this new way of teaching. They do not have control over the learning environment. There are barriers to disciplining or motivating students due to lack of proximity. Some teachers are also supporting their own children’s virtual learning while teaching. Be mindful of the teacher’s hardships and show compassion.
Communicate with the teacher - Talk to the child’s teacher about difficulties in learning, comprehending, or if your child needs modifications. You are the information link between your child and the teacher. Be mindful of communicating via email when possible so as not to disrupt the flow of live teaching.
Set aside time for physical activities - Physical activities are more important now since there are fewer opportunities for them. Set aside 30 minutes each day for the children to run around in the yard, go for a bike ride, kick a ball, or play jump rope. Physical activities are important for balancing the mind and body. It stimulates the nervous system and refreshes the mind.
In a nutshell, expect friction during the first few weeks. Give your family time to adjust, to get to know the new teacher, and establish rapport. Be kind to everyone around you including the teacher. Do the best you can with the resources you have. And don’t forget to look at the big picture. In the lifespan of 80-90 years, this is just one year: this too shall pass.
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