Tips To Navigate Your Kids' Return to the Classroom

Navigate Your Kids' Return to the Classroom

Tips to Navigate Your Kids’ Return to the Classroom

Managing Mental Health and Adapting to Changes

During this hectic time of the pandemic, COVID-19 cases have decreased in many areas, even though fears about illness still linger. Many schools are now offering the option of in-person learning; as a result, many kids are returning to the classroom after months of e-learning from home.

This significant change may be a blessing for parents or children who are eager to return to the classroom, but it also could be a cause of anxiety for many children. Not only are these changes affecting kids who are returning to the classroom, they have an impact on mental health for those who are continuing virtual learning from home. Thankfully, there are options to help this transition; these vary from counseling to everyday strategies to help your kids cope, or a combination of both. 

Communication with your children is an essential step towards navigating these changes. Here are some tips you will need to alleviate your child’s anxiety, whether or not they are continuing virtual learning or switching to in-person.

Tips for parents of kids returning to in-person schooling:

  1. Acknowledge that change is hard: Change can be good, but life changes can also stir up emotion and apprehension about what will come next. The first step in making peace with change is acknowledging it. This means talking to your kids about how they are feeling about returning to the classroom. Validating your child’s concerns is important, such as acknowledging that the change might be hard for them.
  2. Embrace social changes: Young children and adolescents may have fears about starting in-person school and may have some trouble relating to peers in an in-person environment when used to communicating with their peers primarily via social media or text message. Switching to face-to-face can be difficult for kids who are prone to social anxiety. One way to help is to role-play situations that they may encounter on their first days back, such as talking with a peer or teacher. 
  3. Address fears about COVID-19 risks at school: It’s natural for kids to have some concerns about exposure to COVID-19 when returning to in-person learning. However, many schools are taking precautions to avoid risks, such as access to hand sanitizer, and mandatory mask-wearing, as well as distancing the desks in the classrooms, to name a few. You can explain to your children the reasoning for precautions. Some children may get anxious about wearing a mask, and teaching your child breathing techniques to use at school may help with that.
  4. Stick to a schedule: Changing to in-person learning from virtual may be an adjustment for those who have had less of a strict schedule during the time they learned virtually. To get back into a schedule, setting regular morning alarms a few days before getting back to school is recommended. Turning off technology before bedtime is also recommended for a good night’s sleep. 
  5. Stay positive: Encouraging your children about going back to school can help them feel more at ease. You can ask them about aspects they are looking forward to when getting back in the classroom.

Tips for parents of kids who are continuing virtual learning from home:

  1. Provide reassurance that the situation is not permanent: One way to help alleviate sadness or worry is to reassure your kids that the current situation is not permanent. We will not stay in a state of pandemic forever, and they will eventually be able to return to school at some point in the future. 
  2. Educate your child about your reasons for continuing virtual learning: Try explaining to them the reasons why you are sticking to e-learning. For example, some children may be at higher risk for COVID-19 complications due to a health condition, or perhaps the child lives with parents who have COPD or other chronic conditions and are at high risk. While this may be a difficult conversation to navigate, helping your kids understand the reasoning as to why they are not returning to the classroom at present may help them. 
  3. Brainstorm ways to address their sadness: Your kids may feel left out when they see their peers returning to the classroom and realize that those kids can see each other all the time. This may be one of the most challenging things for your kids to adjust to if they are not returning to in-class learning like their peers. Talk with other parents who are continuing with virtual learning about what helps their kids. 
  4. Encourage your kids to stay in touch with their peers: You can encourage your kids to keep in touch with their friends and classmates through texting, messaging on social media, and via in-person, social distanced meetups. This could involve going for a walk with a friend, or having their friend over to your home, depending on your situation or comfort level with having guests over. 
  5. Check-in with them about their mental health: It never hurts to check-in and have a heart-to-heart with your kids. Start by asking: “How are you doing?” It’s as simple as that. While some kids may clam up when asked that question, it is essential that you ask. Your child could be experiencing depression or anxiety that could go unnoticed if no one takes the time to check in with them.

Here are some signs that your child may benefit from therapy for mental health

  • Feeling constantly on edge 
  • Withdrawing from social situations 
  • Isolating themselves
  • Mood swings 
  • Lack of concentration
  • Nervousness
  • Separation anxiety
  • Jitteriness 
  • Tearfulness
  • Hopelessness  
  • Substance abuse 
  • School refusal

If you notice that your child has some of the above symptoms, it may be a great time to start therapy. Counseling can be beneficial when it comes to adjusting to school changes and the state of the pandemic. Washington Psychological Wellness, located in Gaithersburg, Maryland, offers both child and adolescent therapy, which could greatly help your child adjust to changes related to in-person schooling as well as virtual learning. 

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