March 13, 2020 is the day that everything shifted for my family and many others. This was the day that our local school district announced the closure of schools because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially it was supposed to be “for a few weeks.” This quickly into a month, then the remainder of the school year, then another school year. 17 months after the closure, the schools in our area have been able to open back up. On August 18, 2021, the district returned to full-time in-person education services. With the reopening, there have been the typical new school year emotions of excitement, anxiety, worry, apprehension and anticipation. As the COVID-19 virus lingers, another layer of emotions such as fear, safety concerns, and the effects of children being reintroduced to a structured learning environment, are also being felt.
Over the last two weeks, we have received multiple requests from parents about how to guide their children and themselves through this new school year. Here are five things to remember and apply as both you and your children are experiencing the multitude of feelings during this new school year.
1. Find a routine: Creating a daily routine for school days will decrease everyone overall level of stress and provide better time management. Getting tasks done the night before such as preparing lunches, taking out clothes that your children will wear the next day and bathing will leave more time in the morning to eat breakfast and not have to rush out of the house. After doing this consistently for a few weeks, everyone will know their role each evening and morning. This produces a feeling of ownership and equality for parents and kids. Keeping everyone’s emotions calm and giving your children a sense of control each morning will have a positive effect on their mood and behavior as they get to school.
2. Be consistent: Try to keep the pick-up and drop-off as consistent as possible. This transition time is important for your child to learn how to switch their brains from “home time” to “school time.” Drop them off at the same location each morning; have a phase that you say each time you drop them off such, “Have a great day. I will be back to pick you up when school is done”; insure you are on time when picking them up and if you are going to be late let them or their teacher know.
3. Let them know: Have open and direct communication with your kids. If you notice a change in their behavior or have concerns about them going back to school then let them know. “I noticed that when I picked up for school yesterday
and today you were quiet and did not want to talk.” Communicating your observations whether they are positive or negative can open up conversation with your children and give them space to process their day.
4. Have patience: This is a stressful time! Without the COVID-19 pandemic, the transition into a new school year was already filled with a mixture of emotions. With the additional restrictions and changes because of the pandemic, the process is that much more difficult. Remind yourself and your kids that we all need patients. Taking a few extra breathes before responding or allowing an extra minute to complete something instead of rushing can have a significant positive change in the mood and energy of the family.
5 Take a break: We all need a break sometimes. As we navigate the path of parenthood, we need time for ourselves. This time can be used to decompress, engage in self-care and to refill your emotional tank. This also holds true or our kids. Creating space in their weekly schedule to have free time and space to do what they choose gives them an emotional break as well. As school begins, it is easy to fill our schedules and go from activity to activity. Being just as intentional to create time for breaks will assist the family better cope with stress, have more positive moods, and be able to enjoy time together.