This past year or so has presented us with unique challenges in schooling as we attempted to cope with the “new normal” of the COVID pandemic. Whether dealing with virtual, hybrid or traditional classrooms, parents struggled to maintain a positive and productive environment in order to help their children grow and thrive.
Now, as the new academic year approaches, we are on the cusp of the next phase of this journey. What are we going to be facing? How can we prepare?
In actuality, no one knows exactly what the fall semester will look like — and it’s normal to feel anxiety in the face of that uncertainty. Each and every school district may choose to enforce different health guidelines and recommendations that they feel reflects what is best for their students and staff. This re-entry may be highly anticipated or possibly dreaded, depending on your child’s educational, social and emotional strengths and needs.
So what do we need to be aware of in order to be as prepared as possible?
First of all, transitions are always forays into the unknown, so in the beginning, you may feel a bit uncomfortable and less confident than you may have usually felt. Schools may have glitches as they figure out ways to implement the newly created procedures and policies to keep everyone safe. Limited physical interactions may also impact the typical social behaviors accepted in the past.
Returning to the high energy “controlled chaos” of the school environment may feel a bit overwhelming after the relative quiet and isolation of the coronavirus quarantine. Maintaining focus amidst increased distractions and higher periods of expected on-task classroom behavior may also be difficult! Whew!!
Here are some tips that may help your children as they face this experience:
- Prepare them for the “new normal.” Remind them that the school most likely will not look and feel exactly the same as it did when you left, but that the changes are necessary to keep them safe. Physical distancing, temperature checks, wearing masks (spaced-apart desks, lunch in the classrooms or staggered schedules) may be in place.
- Remind them to be patient with themselves as they relearn how to focus in a physical classroom environment. Encourage small increments towards greater success.
- Tell them that if they are feeling anxious, stressed or frustrated, that it is normal and not unexpected. If those feelings don’t lessen within a couple of weeks, encourage them to reach out to a trusted teacher, guidance counselor or school social worker to talk with them.
- Re-establish daily school routines. These provide consistency and structure and are essential in ensuring student success. These begin at home, with a morning routine that includes a healthy breakfast and school supplies at the ready (and lunch if needed), continuing with dedicated study space and time, and consistent bedtime practices that allow for a good night’s sleep . Starting those regular habits in the latter part of the summer will help you ease back into school.
- Don’t forget to have them build in time for fun, hobbies and exploration!
- Recharge and refresh!! Recognize if a break is needed to relax and refocus, and take it!
- Help foster a growth mindset: Be positive, flexible and view difficulties as opportunities to grow, and challenges to solve, instead of obstacles and impasses.
- Encourage them to keep connecting to their friends. Socializing and interacting with people is crucial to decreasing that sense of isolation that can discourage us.
- Remind them to keep those good hygiene practices they learned to continue to stay safe and prevent virus transmission.
We hope these tips will help you face the new year with optimism, calm and confidence!
Debora Rothbart, Psy. D. LP NCSP
School Support Staff at Jewish Family Service