Tips for Parents Planning for School Amid the Pandemic
We are in the middle of the summer of then now-infamous 2020. No official decision or plan on the re-opening of schools for the fall has been made, surveys have been sent out to parents a few times offering options but the news headlines are contradicting.
Parents are growing increasingly frustrated and concerned, understandably so.
After being rushed into distant learning, most kids did not do well while some did better than when they were in the classroom. The thing is every child is different and every family is different and as human beings, we all react differently to stress and change.
With all that has happened over the last couple of months, quarantining, social distancing, and multi-tasking roles families have been tested in ways they never knew were possible.
The innate instinct to protect our young has been challenged repeatedly because of the constant chaos we have been experiencing related to this pandemic.
It is incredibly difficult to make important decisions to protect your family when you are feeling stressed and exhausted. It is challenging to problem-solve and plan when feeling anxious, drained, or powerless.
So what should families do about school in the fall?
Do what works for your family.
Keep in mind that it may be different from what your friends and other family members are planning, and that is okay.
This is not the time to judge what others are choosing to do.
Families are only trying to protect the kids, whether it’s from financial stressors, from the virus, from losing out on peer interactions, or from falling behind academically.
The decision-making process:
- If you are the parent of an adolescent you want to hear out their thoughts and consider their feelings but you ultimately make the decision.
- Both parents should discuss the options at length and come to an agreement.
Once you have decided between Virtual School, Homeschool or to go along with whatever the school system offers in the fall:
- Notice and process your feelings about it; are you angry? relieved? scared?
- Allow yourself to some time to grieve, cry in the shower, scream in your car, vent to a friend do whatever you need to do to take care of yourself.
- Once you are confident in your decision, plan what you will say to your child, be honest, keep it short, clear, and to the point.
- Break the news, allow them to process and validate their feelings.
- Be mindful of your non-verbal cues, during times of high stress our brains are on the lookout for any signs for danger. If you are scared about sending your child back to school. Your child might pick up on that and they are less likely to feel safe at school.
- Prepare your child on what to expect: explain what homeschooling is, perhaps get them involved in setting up their space home or clarify that school will be different than what it was before COVID; staff and students might be wearing masks, and not being allowed to sit as closely, role-play a day in school with stuffed animals.
- Think of opportunities for safe social interaction, perhaps outdoors. Socializing is usually what they will miss the most about being in a classroom
- Check-in regularly, observe closely, pay attention, listen, and talk to your child about their feelings. Remember kids are just learning to cope with big emotions and the stress caused by all of these changes can make it even more difficult to do so.