That time of the year has finally rolled around after a long intermission spent debating the best way to handle academics while coping with the effects of COVID. Students are back in class, but the school year is looking a lot different than typical school years. While most school systems have opted for online classes during the pandemic, other schools have sent their students back to campuses for in-person classes.
No matter which structure your student is facing this school year, there are benefits and consequences to both types of education during this difficult time. Keeping in mind that your child will undoubtedly face many barriers to traditional learning this year will help you ensure that you are safeguarding their overall wellness.
While many parents have spent the last few weeks eagerly awaiting announcements from school systems regarding their plans for the 2020-2021 school year, the resulting systems have left families with a variety of health concerns. With information and academic structures changing on a near-constant schedule, preparing your student for the unexpected can help assuage their fears when changes do happen. If your child is aware that the school structure may change (unlike typical school years), they may not feel so surprised when future changes do roll around.
For students who are spending all or part of their time physically in classrooms, the immediate concerns are exposure to the COVID virus. Reminding your child daily about the precautions to take to safeguard themselves will help reinforce those safe practices (staying six feet away from others, washing hands consistently, and wearing a mask).
If someone they know does get sick, be aware that children may experience levels of guilt regarding this diagnosis. Children may illogically blame themselves for a loved one getting sick. Be sure to remind your students about the science behind COVID and the precautions they took to help prevent themselves and others from getting sick.
For students who are attending class virtually, the physical health effects may not be as daunting as the mental health effects. Your child is likely missing spending time with their school friends and may be disappointed to realize this school year is a lot different from previous years. Be sure to keep lines of communication open, and create an environment where your child feels comfortable to talk with you about their feelings. Older children can watch the news with you to help them get a more realistic idea of current events. You can remind kids of all ages that coronavirus does not seem to affect them as much as it does adults.
During this difficult time, it is important for families to remember that no one has been through this situation before. Parents and children alike are facing unprecedented situations. Adults should keep a close check on their own feelings as well, remembering to take time for themselves so that they can better help their children deal with emotions healthily during this time. Remembering that COVID will eventually pass can help keep emotions and fears in check.