Preparing Your Children for School

Preparing Your Children for School

Picture of Meri Wallace
Meri Wallace

Meri Wallace, LCSW, a parenting expert and child and family therapist for over thirty years, grew up in Coney Island, Brooklyn. Meri completed her Masters degree in Social Work at NYU, specializing in child development. Meri writes a blog for “Psychology Today”, and is the author of “Birth Order Blues” (Henry Holt and Co.) and “Keys to Parenting Your Four Year Old” (Barron's Educational Series.) She has been a columnist for Sesame Street Parents, New York Family Magazine,and Brooklyn Parent and has been a consultant to Children’s Television Workshop. She is frequently interviewed by national publications including Newsweek, Cosmopolitan, and Parents Magazine.

Parents and children are naturally feeling anxious

KEY POINTS

  • As many children return to in-class learning, they will have to adjust to the new setting and may feel anxious about Covid exposure.
  • Parents can help children prepare for the transition by learning their school’s protocols and practicing for new situations such as mask-wearing.
  • Parents can also talk to children about their emotions and empower them by reminding them of health practices such as hand-washing.

This has certainly been a year of constant adjustments for children in their home life and education. Some have learned remotely throughout the pandemic, some have experienced hybrid learning (in school some days and at home on others) and some have returned to school only to be faced with yet another shutdown thrusting them back to home learning.

Now, as many children return to in-class learning, they must readjust again. Parents and children naturally are feeling anxious about the return and the fear of exposure at a time when the number of Covid-19 infections is rising again in many areas. Getting educated as parents and preparing your children in advance is essential in making the transition go smoothly. Here are some steps parents can take.

Tips for Preparing Children to Go Back to School

Learn your school’s protocol

Schools across the country are functioning differently according to state and local decisions. Some require a continuation of social distancing and mask-wearing while others do not. Talk with your children about the changes in their school, so they will know what to expect the first day. For instance, you might explain to a child who has been learning remotely that in the classroom the desks will be spaced far apart, teachers may keep a distance from the children, and the children may eat lunch in their classroom.

Practice new situations

In some child care centers, many young children aged 2 years and up will need to wear masks for the first time. Show your child how to place a mask on his face covering his nose and mouth. When he is playing during the day, let him wear the mask for increasingly longer periods. Older children may have to wear masks outdoors in the playground for the first time, so they will need an opportunity to adjust to the practice.

Talk about your children’s emotions

Many children feel anxious about returning to school. They have been frightened about catching Covid-19 for a long time, and walking into a school building may make them feel vulnerable. If your child expresses fear or anxiety or hesitates to enter, acknowledge that it is natural to have some anxiety. This is a scary illness and sometimes you feel worried too. At the same time, convey that it is manageable if she follows the rules and takes precautions. You can convey optimism by reminding your children that many people are vaccinated and there is a hope that the disease will diminish in the near future. Reassure them that their school is looking out for them by putting safety measures in place to keep them healthy.

Empower your children

You can help your children to feel safer by going over practices they can follow independently, such as washing their hands often, especially before they eat, and avoiding putting their hands in their mouth. Remind them that wearing a mask and keeping a distance when the teachers say it is necessary and reporting a child who is disobeying the rules is also very important in keeping them safe. These steps will give your children a sense of control.