Transitioning back to school after the summer break can be challenging for many children, but this year it could prove to be even more difficult given the current pandemic. The good news is that we can help ease the transition by implementing some simple strategies at home over the next few weeks!
- Read books. There are so many great books about going back to school (or about school in general). Remember, most children haven’t been in school for five and half months! Books are always a great way to prepare your child for a change. This year be sure to talk about the emotions and feelings of the different characters and the reasons why the characters feel a certain way. You can also talk through some common problems and brainstorm together some possible solutions. For example, “It’s okay not to know anyone in your new class. You will make new friends.” or “I sometimes feel sad when I have to say goodbye, but I know my mommy always comes back.” It can be helpful for children to see that other children share the same feelings. Books can also help illustrate new vocabulary, and they can help set expectations. Here are a few of our favorite back-to-school books:
- Practice your morning routine one to two weeks before school starts. Depending on your child’s age, it may be helpful to write out the steps (e.g. first get dressed, second brush teeth) or draw pictures next to each step for visual support. Practicing your morning routine a week or two before school starts will give you (and your child) plenty of time to figure out just how much time you both need to get out the door! It will also ease your child back into the school routine.
- Meet and greet. Reach out to your child’s school to see if there is an opportunity for your child to meet their new teacher before school starts. Some preschools offer home visits before school begins; however, this year that will likely not be the case. If the teachers can’t visit your home, ask if it’s possible to schedule a virtual “meet and greet.” A familiar face can go a long way in a new environment.
- Take a drive to the school. Even if your child is going back to the same school, driving to the school may help refresh your child’s memory. Talk about the positive experiences your child had this past year (and try to talk about the events that happened at school rather than during e-learning). If the school is new for your child, you may even want to get out and talk a walk around the building. Talk about what the school has, who will be there to help your child and the friends he/she will see (or meet).
- Reduce screen time. We know that the increase in screen time was necessary during e-learning, but for many children, the additional screen time has persisted into the summer months. Rather than eliminating screen time abruptly, slowly reduce the time your child spends in front of a screen. For those children that are resistant, try introducing new and exciting alternative activities. Outdoor activities, such as an obstacle course, scavenger hunt, or even water balloons can be so much fun! It’s also important to talk about when/why additional screen time was acceptable. It’s inevitable that e-learning will come up again during the 2020-2021 school year, so by starting the conversation now, it will be easier to transition back to more screen time.
- Talk and talk some more! There are going to be a lot of changes this year. Some changes will be small while others will be quite substantial. For example, many schools are not allowing reusable, personal water bottles. This may seem like a small, insignificant change, but for some children, it may be frustrating that he/she can’t bring their water bottle with them. I know that if I give my child a heads up for these smaller changes, it’s much easier for her to process. A much bigger change is that everyone will be wearing a mask. If your child has been home for the majority of the time, he/she may not be familiar with people in masks (or having to wear a mask). It’s important to explain to your child why wearing a mask is important and when he/she will need to wear one. Other changes may include a different schedule (e.g. in-person school in the morning and e-learning in the afternoon or in-person learning 2 days a week and e-learning 3 days a week), no extracurricular/enrichment classes, cohorts, temperature checks and no visitors.
Keep in mind that that this year is going to be different in so many ways and plans and protocols will constantly change. Be sure to model flexibility and positivity and keep an open mind. We can get through this together!