We asked Sumayyah Khan, Clinical psychologist to take time out of her busy schedule and talk to us about getting our children ready to come back to school. This is what she had to say:
The most important part about preparing your child to return to school amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, is providing them with information before their return.
If your child is nervous about going back to school, communicate with calm words and provide them with an action plan that allows them to feel safe.
Although they may be returning to a familiar environment, so much is going to be different. As parents, get as much information as you can from your child/children’s school/schools to be able to prepare them specifically for what to expect at their own school, as each school may have a different set up.
Normalize their worries, and you can even draw up a worry list, from worst to least, and work thrpugh those fears with them. Remember, what may seem insignificant to you, may be huge to them, and it is important to not try to overlook or brush away those worries. Rather acknowledge their worries, and encourage them to face those fears, as that is the only way to overcome them. You could also create small rewards for each fear that a child faces and overcomes, be open to talking about their day with them and exploring any fears that may have occurred, and how they dealt with it.
Friends make up a significant part of most children’s lives, having not seen their friends for such a long period of time, they are going to be very excited to be socially interacting again. However, they need to understand safe ways to interact with their friends, that is; no hugging, or high 5’s, special handshakes, etc. Practice elbow and foot greetings at home, so it becomes a norm, and will be easier to assimilate into at school. For some kids, maintaining friendships is challenging under typical circumstances, so returning to school and peers, after such a long break, may be daunting, as they are unsure of what to expect. Reassure them that no matter what happens, they will be okay, and that friend groups change all the time, and that they should be open to engaging with old friends, but also be encouraged to make new friends. If you see them struggling to assimilate, you could also consider setting up interactions outside of school, to help your child reconnect with friends.
Above all; reassure them that it’s okay if they forget the COVID rules of engagement at times, that it takes time to learn anything new, and that if they make a mistake to just be safe and sanitize or wash their hands.
We would like to take this time to acknowledge and send our appreciation to Sumayyah Khan for taking time to help guide us through these uncharted territories.