So far, 2020 hasn’t been the best year, on many levels. We need not say more. One of the things parents complain about most is coping with their kids at home. It’s really difficult to care for and entertain small children while you as the parent is desperately trying to get some work done in-between. It’s just as difficult with older children. Suddenly you’re a home-schooling mom, which is still one thing if that was what you wanted and chose, but something else completely if you feel unequipped and need to juggle it with your own work. But, finally, it’s back to school time. Here’s how to help your children cope with school during COVID-19.
School during COVID-19
Apart from the work-load there is also the practical challenges of having kids in school during COVID-19. There are all types of rules on when and how you can drop them off and pick them up. They only go to school on some days, expect that seems to change every few weeks. They are not allowed to take along toys, or to play with their friends as usual. They have to wear a mask, which is horrible as we all know. Children of course have different personalities and respond differently to these circumstances.
2020 has been challenging for your kids too
It’s important to realize that this year has been challenging for your kids as well. They hear all the news and grown-up conversations. Perhaps loved ones close to you have fallen sick or even died from COVID-19. They witness the economic impact – for some it’s something simple (yet important to them) like their favourite restaurant play area closing down. For others, it’s a mom or dad losing a job.
Children need to process all of this without the coping skills and bigger understanding that we, as grown-ups, have gained over the years.
Below are some tips to help your child to cope with going back to school during COVID-19 pandemic:
1. Understand the influence of their personality and nature
Not all kids are the same. How they experience and cope with the situation will depend on their age, maturity and personality. Some kids may be really excited to go back and see their friends, while others may feel anxious and scared and may hate the whole process. Talk to your child and look closely at their behaviour so that you can try to see where his/her individual challenges lie. This will help you to know how to help them best.
2. If they are scared, empower them to stay safe
Some children are really anxious about the virus and getting sick. Explain to them the measures that the school is implementing to keep them safe. Pack their own hygiene products like hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes which they can use whenever they feel it is necessary will help make going back to school during COVID-19 easier.
3. Watch your mouth
Adults will often talk and debrief among each other, and we tend to forget about little ears listening closely to all we say. In terms of the virus, your child will do well enough with the basic facts:
- Most people that fall sick will experience mild illness
- Vulnerable people (like their grandparents) are most at risk of serious disease, and that is why we need to protect them by keeping social distances and not kissing or hugging them.
- Children can contract COVID-19, but they usually don’t get as sick from it
What scares us as grown-ups is that some of the people dying from the virus were young and healthy. And we have all read about the rare but serious effects that the virus has on some children. Perhaps you are feeling angry at the lock-down and feel that all of this is just a giant fuss about nothing. Or perhaps you feel the risk of going back to school is too big and you were hoping they would cancel the school year.
Your child doesn’t need to hear all these thoughts. It will only cause anxiety and stress, and make it more difficult for him to cope. You need to understand that he already needs all his resources and cope with all the unavoidable things that are part of this process.
4. Be positive about school work
By all means, complain in private to your friends or your partner, but don’t let your child hear you blow off steam over their schoolwork, the school’s management of the process, the teacher’s communication skills (our teachers are under tremendous pressure) or the burden that all of this is placing on you.
Your child will cooperate more and learn more easily if you talk about it in a positive way, not as a punishment.
5. Provide your child with connections that keep them grounded
Children who feel connected and secure will be more able to deal with difficulties. Be sure that you connect with your child in the mornings before school, and reconnect when they get back. Have breakfast together, and talk about their day. When you fetch them, do the same. You can also connect during the day with something as simple as a lunchbox note.
Encourage other valuable people in their lives to do the same. These connections will provide the safety-net between your child and difficult circumstances. It is what helps them bounce back.
6. Try to get involved
You may feel like you don’t have time for much more right now, but if you are more involved your child will also feel safer, plus you will have a better understanding of what they are going through. At the moment schools generally need less practical help from parents, but look out of an opportunity where you can take part.
7. Encourage play and having fun
There are tons of research showing that play is crucial for children’s intellectual and social development. At the moment opportunities for play at school is reduced. This means that it is even more important at home. Yes, homework is important, but you have to make sure that you leave space and provide an opportunity for play. Of course, ultimately they want you to be involved with this (I know, not first on your list right now, but I promise it will pay off).
8. Provide them with time to be in charge
Children need to be able to control some things in the midst of all this chaos. Allow and encourage them to make some decisions for themselves – what clothes they are wearing (even if it doesn’t go together), or what (healthy) option you purchase for their lunch box.
But more valuable than this is to have some special time scheduled where they can control what you do. Mostly it will be something silly that you actually have no interest in, (mommy, I’m the dog and you are the owner, now you must say this). But fake it till you make it! These games tend to evolve and you may eventually enjoy them as well. These games give children a break from reality on their own terms and helps them to process all the experiences they had each day.
9. Look after yourself
You cannot do all of the above if you are feeling drained and depleted. All these tips sound fairly simple, but most parents will feel that it is too much. Be sure to care for your own physical and emotional well-being – you know what you need.
10. Lastly, remember that this too shall pass
This time won’t last forever. Take it day by day, and treasure the small joys that every day still holds. This is your life and a year of your child’s life that you won’t get a repeat of just because it worked out differently than you planned.