As the summer winds down, there are still many unknowns about what school will look like in some communities. Schools and parents are working hard to plan for how to best keep children and educators safe while providing quality education to students.
Below are some ideas parents and other primary caregivers may consider to help children adjust to the circumstances of this school year, with its many uncertainties. Many of these ideas are in line with the National Association of School Psychologists and American School Counselor Association’s Reentry Considerations and guidance regarding talking to children about COVID. This piece is meant to be informational in nature and not to provide medical advice or recommendations. These are general considerations, but parents should contact their own providers for individualized advice for their families and children.
- Talk with your child’s school and/or medical or professional provider to consult on what makes the most sense to support your child and family in the transition back to school. Each child is unique, and parents can adapt ideas to the individual needs of their children and family.
- Provide developmentally appropriate and honest information regarding the beginning of the school year to help students understand what to expect. It is important to leave time for children to ask questions. When adults remain calm in the conversation, while offering information about successfully transitioning back to school, they can help children gain an increased sense of control. It is best not to overly focus on the news or unnecessary details that might cause increased distress to children. In general, with younger children, brief descriptions (with accurate information) are helpful. Children will respond to your emotions. Offer love and reassurance and remind children that adults, including their teachers and parents, are working to keep children safe.
- Listen to children’s questions and concerns. Remember that young children might also communicate through play.
- If children return to in-person school, they will need to be taught new routines regarding physical distancing, hygiene, wearing masks (when required), sharing, etc. It will be important that these new social expectations are taught and reinforced with patience and care. Parents may communicate with the school to understand the new expectations so that they can also have discussions and/or practice at home as needed. For example, parents might practice wearing masks or hand-washing at home. Social stories, books, comic strips, and role-playing that model and educate about the new social routines may also be useful ways to reinforce new school expectations at school and at home.
- Connecting with the school and reading school communications can also help parents reinforce expectations with common words/phrases in both the home and school settings, when appropriate, so that children are better able to connect concepts. For example, if the phrases “social distancing” or “hygiene” are used in the school setting it might be helpful to use the same words at home when reinforcing expectations regarding the new routines.