The COVID-19 crisis has been a complete disruption to the normal flow of life for all families. And currently, many countries around the world are in the process of reopening their schools in the midst of this pandemic.
For some children, this can be a very exciting time where they are looking forward to seeing their teachers and friends. For others, it can cause significant distress or anxiety. And quite possibly, a child could be feeling a range of all these emotions, depending on the day.
As parents and caregivers, there are strategies we can use to support our children if they are having a difficult time adjusting to the idea of going back to school.
Allay Fears By Being Positive and Encouraging
Often, we tend to reassure our children by telling them “not to worry”, or that “everything will be fine”. These types of statements come across as vague and they actually do nothing to relieve fear or anxiety.
- Listen closely to the thoughts and feelings your child shares with you and provide a space that says it’s safe to share our worries.
- Be honest and encouraging to build resilience in your child. You can acknowledge the worries and the risks we are all facing. But emphasize all the precautions and protocols the school has planned to reduce those risks. If your child still expresses worry, help them articulate the specific problem and together identify a workable solution.
- Praise them for showing courage in the face of their fear. Express your pride in their bravery and remind them that they are strong enough to face their worries and are capable of coping with them.
- Stay active in connecting with the school about any struggles or questions your child has expressed. You are the best advocate for your child.
- Stay informed by facts, not rumours. Use reliable sources of information relating to what is happening in your Maple Bear school, in your community, your state and country. Share age-appropriate information with your children. Equip them with facts that they can absorb at their age.
Of course, if the fear of returning to school is debilitating, contact the school staff. A gradual entry plan may be warranted, with partial attendance gradually lengthened as the child becomes more comfortable.
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Model Calm, Resilience and Honesty For Your Child
Parents are always teaching their children by example. Being a positive role model will show your children how to handle fear, stress and uncertainty.
- Acknowledge you have worries too. But instead of dwelling on them, focus on your own healthy coping strategies. This will provide healthy guidance to your children, who will see that worrying is natural and it can be alleviated in proactive ways.
- Anticipate what stressful new scenarios might occur, such as another school closure or a family member or friend becoming ill with COVID-19. Try to find an honest yet developmentally appropriate warning. Don’t minimize, but encourage and model the right attitude: “Let’s take life one day at a time, and find joy where we can instead of fretting about things we cannot control.”
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Make Sure to Make Time for Self-Care
Our capacity to support others is limited by our own physical and mental well-being. During this time, it can be extremely difficult to focus on your own self-care. But the benefits are significant and will positively affect your relationship with yourself and with all members of your family.
- Take regular breaks and / or personal time. If you have a spouse or other relative at home, divide and share the parenting duties to make breaks possible. Put nap time, reading or quiet time in your child’s daily routine. This allows you to relax or get some work done.
- Try to fit in a daily exercise routine, even if it’s just for a short period of time.
- Eat healthy nutritious meals at regular times.
- Get adequate amount of sleep.
- Try meditation, journaling or yoga to build your capacity to be mindful.
- Socialize with friends and family virtually or with proper social distancing.
Remember, your child will be dealing with the stress of this ongoing crisis differently from you. Maple Bear schools will work together with our parents to create a supportive and nurturing environment that will ease the emotional strain on the students and will facilitate a successful transition back to school.