There’s an excitement that kids experience when the time comes to return to school. This is an interesting phenomenon considering the elation kids feel when summer break rolls around and they get to leave for a couple months. The start of the school year, however, gives kids the opportunity to catch up, reconnect, and share all sorts of germs. That’s great news for parents, right?
Back to school is a challenging time for families, and the 2021 fall semester is no different. With delta variant surges occurring all over the United States, sending kids back to school can be a terrifying thought. Millions of students are preparing for fully in-person education for the first time in over a year. In addition to shopping for school supplies, there are health issues to consider. Ensuring that children understand the importance of hygiene and masking policies is one primary job. While the physical health of children is something that parents need to worry about, mental health may also be a topic of discussion.
Returning To School: A Mental Struggle
Clinical psychologists have been receiving calls about assisting children with their reentry to in-person classes. Each child has their own set of concerns, worries, or fears about heading back to school in general. Lack of enthusiasm to go to class, developing a morning routine, and cementing an after-school homework ritual are all things that require work, but this year presents a different challenge. The coronavirus is still in the air, spreading rapidly with the newer delta variant. Kids may feel worried or nervous to be around their peers. Will kids abide by masking guidelines and practice proper hand-washing? Kids who are old enough understand that it’s much easier to get sick, and that worry may make it difficult to head back to the classroom.
Whether you are an educator, parent, administrator, or counselor, the following tips may help students start the year off right. There will be inevitable challenges, but you can tackle them as they come.
Create A Morning Checklist
Heading back to in-person school involves a much different routine than heading to the dining room table to start Zoom classes. Aside from equipping kids with a mask, hand sanitizer, and lunch, there may be other things to pack. Consider after-school programs, sports, or musical instruments that also have to go with them. Create a daily checklist for children to reference every morning. This will be interactive and fun, and it will help get them ready for each day.
Refresh Proper Coughing & Sneezing Etiquette
Everyone coughs and sneezes, which can make people nervous in today’s day and age. Remind children to sneeze and cough into their bent elbow, not their hands. This is to help prevent germs from clinging to their hands, which can inevitably touch their face.
Prioritize Mental Health
If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that mental health can dictate how you feel overall. Encourage your children to speak up if they experience too much stress, pressure, or anxiety about returning to school. Remind them that counselors and educators are there to help. Tackling mental health problems in their early stages is the best way to combat the issue. Children have demonstrated incredible resilience during the pandemic, so make sure they know to speak up about anything and everything. There may be learning gaps or loss, but children became resilient and learned to cope with how the world changed.
Read School Emails
This tip is for parents because there will undoubtedly be more emails this coming school year. Schools will most likely update parents via email about events, COVID-19 concerns, or learning opportunities. Always keep an eye out for new information, especially before classes start and during the first month of schooling.
Remind Them Of Proper Hand-Washing
A classroom is a breeding ground for bacteria, even if kids are wearing masks. Touching any surface in school, even if there are enhanced cleaning measures, means that germs end up on hands. Failure to keep hands clean can cause anything from pink eye to COVID-19. Make sure children have hand sanitizer and that they wash hands after dirtying them. Encourage frequent hand-washing by practicing this at home. In fact, making children wash their hands upon returning from school is also a healthy reminder and good idea.
Know When Staying Home Is Best
Now more than ever, staying home during sickness is paramount. If you notice the subtlest hint of illness, keep the child at home and away from other kids at school. If a fever, cough, or congestion develops, consider getting a COVID-19 test to confirm whether or not that is the cause. Determining this will dictate how soon or if they go back to school or not.
Always err on the side of caution with children, especially this year. Be the voice of reason and roll with the punches, just like we’ve been doing since the beginning of the pandemic. Your kids are resilient and they will persevere.