The Covid 19 pandemic has caused major disturbances to all our daily lives and more evidently to kids and their academic routine. Parallelly, as children deeply feel these changes, it has hampered their overall growth due to limited social interactions and in-person learning experiences. With the pandemic subsiding and all schools reopening, children are likely to experience a range of emotions. The return to school may be exciting for some students whereas others may feel frightened or anxious.
School is an inevitable and most important part of a child’s life. It plays a major role in evolving life skills and brain development in children. It is a basic foundation of knowledge being imparted to a child. Starting school back again or going to a new school can be very challenging for kids in this post-pandemic era. This has become even more stressful for children as they have been learning from the comforts of their home for the past two years. Some children might easily stride on the changes. They will be excited to see their friends and teachers. For others, it will be hard to adapt. As parents, it is a testing time for our parenting skills. Moreover, making up children’s minds for school, prepping up their mental, physical and emotional abilities for the school setup, and encouraging kids to go back to physical school is challenging for the parents too. This is the time – when you really need to gear up and use your parenting skills efficiently.
There are many questions that parents have (I had too). The most common question is, what are the things I should look out for as my child starts going back to school?
Signs to look out for
As a parent, guardian, or caregiver, it is important to keep an eye on your child’s physical, emotional, learning, and behavioural patterns once they start going back to school. Look out for the following signs of anxiety or stress to gauge that your child needs extra support from you.
Most of the children may not be vocal about how they feel about going back to school. This confusion in children has reasons. Kids going to school for the first time do not know the concept of school or the educational system, its importance, the way it works, etc. Everything is so new and things might be a surprise for them. Kids who are resuming school also feel overwhelmed at times. They might not be excited the same way as they used to be before the pandemic.
When school starts the most important thing that needs to be scheduled is your routine. During the pandemic, most of the family’s routine was super flexible; especially the mornings which were a bit relaxed. This itself is a great challenge. The solution to it is to put your routines in place and help kids to be more organized.
Challenges and Solutions
Let us discuss what other challenges and questions parents and kids have in their minds while prepping for school.
- My child is scared to go back to school. How can I help him feel at ease?
Starting school or a new school might give goosebumps to your child. To alleviate stress and make him feel at ease have an open, friendly conversation about what is worrying him. Let him know that it is normal to feel nervous. Motivate your child by giving your own example as to how as a child you adjusted to the school environment. Arrange a playdate with his friends 2-3 days prior to starting school. Make your child comfortable by talking about the possibilities that he might need to do in school, like wearing masks, washing hands frequently, etc. Remind children about the positives- that they will be able to meet their friends, and teachers or make new friends, and learning new things will be so much fun. Letting your child know that you are waiting for him/her downstairs gives them a feeling of emotional security required to deal with the anxiety. Gradually, you won’t need to say this at all.
- My child will be attending school for the first time after the pandemic. How can I make him feel comfortable with going to school every day without having any social phobia?
Arrange a story session where you speak about children going to school for the first time and how different fun activities are done at school. Speak about their favorite activity that the teacher will be doing in the school. Arrange playdates with children of similar age where you pretend to play about being in a school.
- We have changed our child’s school and he is not a part of the same group anymore and he is feeling isolated. How can he feel more connected to the classroom and make new friends?
When the reopening of the school is announced, start preparing him a week before by sharing information, about how and when things are going to happen. Take him for a school visit and let him meet his teachers and peers in his classroom if possible. Encourage them by saying that most of the things would remain the same and that learning is more fun in school if he makes new friends.
- Can I gently check on how my child is coping?
Be patient yet proactive while conversating with your child to see how they are doing. Ask about how was their school day? when they are calm and in their best mood. Check for emotional changes that are obvious. Engage them in creative activities and create a positive and supportive environment wherein they can communicate any negative feelings they might be experiencing.
- My child was used to taking afternoon naps during the pandemic, but now he has an afternoon school? How can I manage his sleep pattern so that he stays fresh and active during school hours?
Make sure you put him to bed as early as 9.30 pm to 10 pm at night. The aim is to complete the 10 to 12 hours of sleep so that he remains fresh, active, and attentive at school. Practice this habit at least 15 days before the school reopens.
- My child has struggled to study in online classes during the pandemic. Now he is worried that he might lag behind his classmates. How can I reassure him?
During this time, it is important for parents to prioritize their children’s well-being and adjustment to the new normal over their learning outcomes. They learn better when they feel loved and supported. Talk to the teachers about the support systems they have for children who have lagged behind during the pandemic.
- My child has been indoors most of the time during the pandemic away from friends and relatives. I suspect he might develop social anxiety. How can I help him cope with it? How can he stay happy at school?
Firstly, be calm about the situation. We pass on our nervousness to children. Find a couple of children from the same class to meet outside the school. This will help your child get comfortable with a few and eventually he will make many friends.
Effective communication with your child is the best way to calm him down. Tell him about the importance of school in a fun way and how his friends are excited to join back school. Talk to him about his favorite activities which will be done in school. Above all give time to your child, and follow a healthy lifestyle by eating a proper diet and getting enough sleep.
- The school recommends wearing masks that makes my child more nervous. How should I explain this to him/her?
Explain by saying empathetically that masks are meant for their own safety and others’ good health too. Assure them by saying if they are healthy, then only they will be able to enjoy school every day and that everyone’s health comes first. Wearing masks will help them stay away from any infections. Encourage them that they are not the only ones, but all their friends will also be wearing masks for their own benefit.
I hope these solutions to overcome the challenges help you and your child to bounce back and cope with the school routine!