Q: “ I am nervous about sending my kids back to school and what it will look like for them? I know that we don’t really know the answers yet. I want to be preparing them now. I have kids who will be in elementary and middle school. One concern in particular is for my child going to middle school. This is his first experience and it will be a new school too. How can we help them be ready for what it might look like in the fall?”
A: This is a question on the minds of so many parents and educators in our city. I am right there with you, wondering what it will look like for my high-school-aged child. I believe that sometimes our imaginations can have us picturing something much scarier than what is truly reality. I think this is a great question and I will do my best to provide you helpful suggestions to the best of my abilities.
I know that school districts all over the country are trying to figure out what is the best and safest way to get kids back in school to learn. I think as a parent there are many ways that we can help prepare our children to go back to school in the fall. First and foremost, each situation is going to be a little different depending on underlying medical conditions that children may be diagnosed with along with their living situations as well. One thing you can be doing is to educate your child on proper hygiene. I always say when you are teaching your child something, you have to teach it in a way that they understand and it relates to their cognitive developmental level. You have to meet them where they are developmentally. You aren’t going to go into a lengthy description of COVID-19 with a 6-year-old, but you can have a much more candid conversation with your teenager. Start with hygiene. This is such a great way to teach kids about handwashing and why it is so important not just for COVID-19, but all communicable diseases. Depending on your child’s age there are so many great science experiments that you can do to talk about germs and handwashing too. I think it is so important to make it fun.
If the school is going to require masks upon returning, talk about it now. I personally wouldn’t want my child’s first experience with someone wearing a mask to be the first day of school. You should try it at home and show them how to wear it and talk about why it’s important. There have been some hilarious videos online about kids going back to school and wearing the masks on their heads, switching masks and just about anything else you can think of to not do it properly. I want you to be kind and keep this in the back of your mind for the upcoming school year…We are all learning. We have never been through this before or under these circumstances. I’ve worked in a school system for over 20 years now and the one thing I can say without pause is we love your kids and we will always try to do what is right by your child.
You mentioned your son going into middle school for the first time. The very thought of starting middle school could be scary without a pandemic! I know that those schools are going to figure out how to make that a smooth transition. I encourage you as it gets closer to opening to reach out to the school. If you have not heard from them you can check to see what they are doing for incoming students. It is never bad to keep that communication open.
My last piece of advice is to truly think about our own attitudes. We have to promote positivity. I think our own attitudes have a huge impact on how our children think and act. Think about the time that you have with your child before they start back. How can you equip your child with the tools and positivity they need to be successful at school? The greatest gift we can give our children is to teach them to be resilient and equip them with the tools to bounce back when life knocks us down. COVID-19 has knocked us all down—some more than others—but we will rise up and meet this challenge and the next with a positive heart and a smile underneath our masks.