By Brittany Carlson
It’s time to prepare kids to return to school, which likely looks a lot different for many families this year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. If you do plan to send your children to school (assuming you have the option), you may be feeling a little apprehensive about their transition back to the classroom after months of social distancing.
I know I do. I can’t wait for my oldest son to start kindergarten this year, but I want to do all I can to ease his transition from staying home to being around other kids and adults in a classroom setting.
Some of the best advice I received on this came from a woman named Lynn, a mother of three high school graduates who went to the same school my son attends now. She said: “Don’t involve children in adult issues.” Basically, what this means is that as parents and adults we can set the tone for our kids as to how nervous or excited they should be about the opportunity to go back to school.
“At this time in our lives, we have to prepare them for wearing a mask, social distancing, and washing their hands,” she said. “But other than that, we get to go to school … and we are so excited about it!”
Parents can help add to their children’s excitement by challenging them to remember what they did and who they talked to on the first day (and every day after that), Lynn said. “Talk about how you will want to know what your child learned each day, what friends they got to talk to,” she said.
Of course, there are practical ways to prepare kids for their new school routine as well.
An online article from care.com called “101 back-to-school tips for kids and parents” offers a few general tips for preparing children to return to school, such as getting them on a good sleep schedule weeks in advance, including setting an alarm in the morning for waking up and getting ready on time.
Consider asking your children's teachers for schedules in advance so you can talk with your children about a typical day at school and ask them about their expectations for their first day back. This year, this discussion might include new school requirements, such as wearing a face covering, having a temperature check or eating lunch in a classroom instead of in the cafeteria.
It might also help to talk about how teachers and other adults will be wearing masks, and to show your child a photo of his or her new teacher (masked and unmasked) before the first day.
This kind of discussion can also be an opportunity to set up a family calendar to talk about what the entire family’s new schedule will be like, including extracurriculars.
If your children’s school offers an orientation, this is an ideal time to help them get more comfortable in their school building and classroom, as well as meet the teacher and other classmates. I’m looking forward to my son’s kindergarten orientation day to familiarize him with where his seat will be, where his locker is and where the bathrooms are, et cetera.
Another tip is to include your child in school supply shopping. This year, students may need to bring in supplies beyond typical pencils and notebooks, such as hand sanitizer and face coverings.
Whatever school looks like for you and your children this fall, I hope you remember my friend Lynn’s wise advice. You can prepare your children for the changes they will encounter while still sharing in their excitement for a new year. You can discuss new safety measures, yet still encourage your kids to find joy in learning and making new friends.
This year will look different, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be more intimidating or scary to kids returning to school or starting school for the first time. As parents, we get the privilege of setting the tone for our children’s learning experience this fall.