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Navigating back-to-school season during COVID-19

Show on Corporate Home, Mind, COVID-19

This year, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, back-to-school season looks a bit different for young children. Whether you’re still helping your child with distance learning or sending them back to a classroom in-person, there are some strategies to make the transition easier for everyone.

Dealing with distance learning

Many schools have opted to begin the year with online learning. For elementary school-aged kids, staying focused on at-home learning can be a challenge. To keep your kid on track, try a few of the following tips:

  • Set up a dedicated school space. Carving out a physical space specifically for school can help your child concentrate. Make sure that this area is free from distractions and is different than where they usually watch television or play games.
  • Create a daily schedule. If you are working at home while your child is attending school, a schedule is crucial to keeping everyone on track. Continue enforcing established bedtimes and school hours, just like in non-COVID times. Help your child by giving them clear expectations about getting work done. It can also help to set up a system, such as putting a red or green sign on your office door, so that your children know when they can interrupt your work time and when they need to wait.
  • Harness the power of technology. Most computers, tablets and mobile phones have accessibility features that can be helpful for kids learning at home. Read-aloud or text-to-speech capabilities can help struggling readers or writers, and closed caption settings might help kids who benefit from visual over auditory learning.
  • Take breaks for family fun and exercise. Kids have recess for a reason—regular exercise and movement can improve their concentration, memory and problem-solving skills. And the same goes for parents! Take a mid-day break together to go on a quick walk around the neighborhood or play in the backyard for 30 minutes. Chances are, you’ll both come back refocused and refreshed.
  • Connect with your child’s teacher. Teachers are navigating a new normal as well, and they want to help your child succeed. If you need clarity about assignments or if your child is struggling with schoolwork, don’t hesitate to reach out over email, phone or even set up a video conference. And remember, we’re all trying to get through this, so an encouraging text or email to a teacher is a great way to remind him or her that they’re appreciated!

Staying safe while face-to-face

When children do return to in-person learning, it will inevitably be under a new set of guidelines to ensure everyone’s safety. Be proactive about teaching your children to protect themselves and others by social distancing, washing their hands and wearing a face covering when distancing isn’t possible.

Explain to your kids why these behaviors are necessary and emphasize that we can all work together to keep each other safe. As a parent, it’s also important to monitor any potential symptoms of sickness in your household and keep your child at home if they feel ill.

Your child’s reaction to going back to school could vary. Some kids will feel excited to see their friends again, while some may feel afraid or uncertain about all the changes. Help your child feel prepared by reassuring them that extra safety measures can help us avoid the spread of infection. Be calm and proactive about checking in with your child’s emotional well-being so that they feel safe to share their feelings.

Navigating new challenges

While preparation is important, parents should prepare to expect the unexpected this school year. Navigating school during COVID-19 is a challenge for all of us, so try to practice patience and empathy—with your children, your children’s educators and yourself.