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Back To School During COVID-19

3 Ways To Prepare Your Child For A Year of Unknowns

Back to school during COVID-19As the summer winds down and the “back-to-school” commercials pick up, one thing is certain – almost everyone is feeling some level of uncertainty about going back to school. While the importance of returning to in-person learning is evident, COVID-19 still remains a threat. As a parent, you have probably found yourself busy reading your child’s school re-opening plan detailing 3 likely scenarios (full in person, partial in person, full distance learning) along with countless articles about what the future may hold. Even as an adult, it can be a lot to take in!

For children, especially Complex Learners, this time of year already brings with it an increase in anxiety. But the normal questions of “will I like my teacher?” and “what if the work is too hard?” have now been accompanied by “do I have to wear a mask all day?” and “will I never see my classmates in person again?” This fear of the unknown can lead to an increase in anxiety which can show itself in a multitude of ways like resistance to going back to school, bursts of anger or frustration, upset stomach, trouble sleeping, and more.

While parents, educators, and public health officials are all working hard to ensure that this school year goes as smoothly as possible, you may still feel lost as to what you can do to help your child prepare for this year. Check out our 3 tips on how to prepare your child for a year of unknowns!

Be Open

The first step in helping your child overcome anxiety about the upcoming school year is to be open and communicative. Depending on your child’s age, you can use your own best judgment as to how much detail you go into about COVID-19 and the concerns about returning to school. But, conversation is key! Open conversation helps your child feel comfortable voicing his own questions or concerns and is a great way for you to gauge how your child is doing with handling these challenges.

Talk frequently with your child about how this school year will look different and what that might look like. He might go back to school and get to be in the same room with his friends and teacher but he’ll have to wear a mask during the day. Or, he might be learning from home some days but will still get to see his classmates and teachers on the computer. A great way to talk about the potential “new normal” of returning to school with younger students is with a social story like ours on “What Will ‘Back to School’ Look Like?”  or this one on Social Distancing.

Be Flexible

Flexible thinking is an important but also difficult trait for Complex Learners. You can help your child practice flexible thinking by demonstrating yourself. How do you handle an unexpected email from your boss? How do you react when you’re running late in the morning? Set a good example by using your own strategies to work through the unexpected. Letting your child see that flexible thinking is something everyone practices, and sometimes struggles with, can help him understand that it is a skill he can develop over time.

Due to COVID-19, this year will demand flexible thinking from educators, parents, and students – so it’s best if we start practicing now! Talk with your child about how he may be excited to go back to school but he may have to learn from home some days or how he can’t wait to see his friends again but even though he wants to, they won’t be able to high five because of social distancing. Talk your child through these situations and talk about the appropriate way he should respond. Depending on the age of your child, you can even act out these situations!

Be Realistic

It’s important to be realistic in your expectations of your child and yourself. Understand that dealing with the realities of COVID-19 is challenging for your child and yourself. This is uncharted territory and with months of concern and stress, it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. But it’s important to work through these feelings in a healthy way and to teach your child to do the same.

Try going for family walks after dinner for a chance for everyone to unplug, spend some time outside, and get some movement in (which can really help with anxiety and stress!). Or have you and your child take turns leading a mindfulness activity so you both learn new ways to relax and reset when you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious!

This year is going to take patience and practice but by working together we’ll still be able to make it a great school year! Do you have any tips for preparing for back to school during COVID-19? Share them in the comments below!

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