When going back to school in September, your child will probably walk into a completely transformed space. Quebec teachers will work hard this summer to reorganize classes in order to conform to social distancing rules and health measures. Is your kid nervous about going back to school? If so, it’s essential to prepare them during the summer to ensure their experience is a positive one – and to keep their motivation for the new school year!
If you haven’t already, it’s important to explain to your kid what COVID-19 is. You don’t have to get into scientific details about the illness or to go deep into explanations that could make them even more anxious. Approach the topic in a simple and playful way. For example, you could explain the disease and help them understand that if they get it, it won’t be fun, but it won’t be fatal. Do specify that elderly people are more at risk, therefore we must protect them even more. By understanding the importance of this disease, kids are more inclined to follow social distancing rules and health measures. You can also tell them that researchers, in Quebec and all around the world, are working hard right now to find a vaccine that will allow us to go back to our normal lives and see our school friends and work colleagues again! Take the time to explain to them that we will not always live this way.
Face mask familiarity
Kids, especially the younger ones, have barely gotten out of the house since the beginning of the lockdown. They probably haven’t seen people wearing face masks or visors. Before they encounter many masked people at school, show them pictures or videos, or wear one at home. By explaining to them that this is used to protect ourselves - and especially used to protect others - wearing a mask will feel more normal to them. If you play down the situation, your kid will be less surprised and shocked when they will go back to school.
Make sure to manage your own anxiety. Children are small sponges that can absorb all our emotions. The virus, working from home, job loss, and going back to school can represent anxiety-ridden topics and situations. However, we must try to not let these emotions show in front of kids. When discussing with adults about your concerns related to going back to school or to the virus, make sure your kids can’t hear what you are saying - wait until they are in bed instead. Even younger children who don’t seem to understand adult discussions absorb enough information to scare themselves. Transferring our fears to them is the last thing you want before they go back to school. Try to find positive in every little thing and make this event a happy one.
Get your kids moving
When kids are running, moving, and expending their energy, they tend to be less stressed. Take the time to do physical activities with them when they are at home. Go on a bike ride, go for a run, or create improvised obstacle courses in your basement; there’s always a good reason to make your kids spend their energy. By doing physical activities every day, you also ensure they have a better night of sleep, plus you have well-rested kids - winning conditions to make going back to school a smooth experience.
While we’re waiting to go back to school...
In the Montreal Metropolitan Community (MMC), kids won’t go back in classrooms until September. No matter what, the school year isn’t over. If you want your kids to stay motivated and be excited for the new school year in September, it is essential to continue school from home. By making sure kids keep learning, they won’t feel overwhelmed when they go back to school. If it’s not easy to combine work and home schooling, reach out to your kids’ teachers. They will certainly help you find solutions and support you in these difficult times.
...And once they’re back in class
Maybe your kids will be thrilled to go back after six long months, but they could be disappointed. The school they left in March won’t be like the one in September. Take the time to understand your kids’ emotions and discuss them together. For example: “Yes, it’s disappointing that you couldn’t play with your friend. I know it is frustrating to not hug your teacher.” Show them that you understand how they feel. Remind them that they might need a transitional period for this new reality, but they will find their place. Take this opportunity to focus with them on positive things and the good times they are having with their friends, despite everything. And most importantly, be there for them!