PREPARING OUR CHILDREN FOR A RETURN TO SCHOOL

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At the time of writing this, many communities, states and countries abroad are easing up on pandemic related lockdowns. Business are opening and many are experiencing some sense of a return to pre-COVID normal lives and routines.

One such routine is getting our kids back to in-person learning. While it may sound fairly simple, it is not. The world is not the same, safety protocols still need to be considered, logistical challenges are becoming more apparent, classes, such as physical education, sports, lunch times and recess will not be fully back to normal any time soon, if ever.

To help shed light on some things to consider through these challenges, we talked with Anne Inwood, a social worker and the owner of Successful Families Together, a firm that helps parents and children dealing with emotional and interpersonal challenges. Anne has over 10 years of experience helping families and draws upon her professional and personal experience when working with her clients.

We have asked so much of our children this last year

Our efforts to keep safe has required us to ask ourselves, but also our children, to cope with an incredible amount of change. These pandemic routines were not just hard for parents and adults, but probably even harder for our children. Kids may not have fully understood the reasons why so many components of their lives changed so quickly in 2020.

“Some of [these changes] were very abrupt,” Anne states. Early on in the pandemic lockdown, many families were managing new challenges every few days, making it very difficult to establish some sense of stability and routine.

Be prepared for all new questions

While our schools are now opening up to in-person learning again, it is important to remember that children may have questions about why is it safe now to go back to schools when it wasn’t for so long. Kids are keenly intuitive and aware of what is going on around them, so being open, thorough and transparent about what they should expect when returning to the classroom is critical.

Children are deeply intuitive

No matter how hard we try as adults to put a positive spin on a tough situation, children can usually figure out what’s really going on pretty quickly. If we are worried about the safety of in person learning, they will pick up on that.

“It’s important to talk to [your kids] about what both of you are feeling,

– Anne Inwood

“It’s important to talk to [your kids] about what both of you are feeling, and try to figure out what they need to feel better,” Anne recommends. The things that your kids are worried about may be very different than what you think they fear or have anxiety about.

Be aware of changes in behavior

Returning to in-person learning is incredibly important for kids to feel normal, but it won’t be the same as it was. Lunch time, most kids favorite part of the day, won’t be the way it was when kids could sit with numerous friends. Now they will be at a table 6 feet apart with maybe one or two other students. Social distancing will still be enforced during classes and mask mandates will be required which makes socializing even harder.

These changes may manifest themselves in your childs’s behavior. Looking out for signs of behavioral changes is important as some children may become more withdrawn, while others may act out. No matter how your child reacts, positively or negatively, being in tune to how they are feeling and talking with them openly will help them deal with the changes.

Its not what they feel, but how they act on what they feel. That’s the key.

Understanding what we and our children feel is okay, no matter what. If your kids are angry or excited, those feelings are valid and should be acknowledged. However, those feelings may need to be articulated in a better way so that everyone understands them and the child feels safe to share them. Therefore, it is important to teach kids how to share those emotions in a safe and positive way.

it is important to teach kids how to share those emotions in a safe and positive way.

“Throwing something across the room because you’re frustrated is not okay,” Anne states. Frustration is a natural reaction in some circumstances so teaching our children how to cope and manage those feelings in the best way can be very challenging, yet very productive. It requires thoughtful, engaging communication with ourselves, our spouses/the child’s other parent(s), guardians and the children themself.

Anne and family

Looking ahead

Over the next few seasons as we get back to more familiar lives, we need to remember that more changes will come. It may be months until we will see restrictions ease even further. Our children need to feel that their safety and health is more important than anything else. Reassuring and helping them understand the “why’s” behind what they’re experiencing will have profound benefits on them and you as parents/guardians.

Where to find Anne

Anne Inwood can be found at successfulfamilestogether.com. She provides a wide variety of services including parent coaching and education, mental health services and emotional development support. I want to thank Anne for her work, expertise and open conversation. Please check out her blog and follow her on Facebook and Linkedin.

Please enjoy the our podcast episode, and thank you Anne for your passion, vision and advocacy! 

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