With school looming, and many of us unsure about what to expect, we once again turn to local experts at AdventHealth South Overland Park for ideas on how to help our kids embrace school in our new normal.
This year, returning to school may look and feel a lot different. And while we may not know exactly how different school will be for kids and families, the usual mixed emotions about returning to school will undoubtedly be met with heightened concerns regarding protecting your family from COVID-19.
To ease your minds, we’re here to support you with some general tips on preparing to return to school feeling more empowered as a family.
Get Familiar Before School Starts
An introduction to their new environment, safety protocols and schedule can go a long way towards making kids comfortable when school starts. “Returning to school in person will require new rules and regulations,” said Jennifer Schultz, MD, Primary Care, AdventHealth Medical Group Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at South Overland Park. “It is important to prepare kids for the new ‘normal’ at school – including wearing masks, frequent hand washing, social distancing and most likely having to stay with one group of kids for most of the day. Stressing the importance of following these rules to keep everyone safe is important. Kids are very adaptable and will most likely get into this routine with ease.”
Participate in Safe Back-to-School Activities
Look into whether your child’s school organizes virtual get-togethers, such as a back-to-school night, prior to the start of the new school year. Meeting their new teacher(s), seeing their classroom and getting to know some of the other kids can go a long way to increase kids’ comfort level at school.
Establish New Routines
Setting and maintaining routine is important to kids. The structure of routine makes kids feel more comfortable and know what they should expect on a daily basis. You should make sure your child knows and understands your new expectations with the upcoming school schedule, including chores, homework, mask wearing, hand hygiene, wake-up and bedtimes and mealtimes. This structure will carry over into the school day and can help your child acclimate to the new routines.
Share Your Excitement
You can also “talk up” the benefits of your child’s school. This may mean focusing on how they can see classmates once again, play with others for recess, ride the bus to school like a “big kid” or how they can attend art or music class every week.
Acknowledge and Validate Their Emotions
It’s important to acknowledge everything your child is feeling, especially at the start of the school year since it tends to cause so much anxiety — but this same level of emotional support should last the whole year through.
Staying in close communication with your child from beginning to end of the school year can help you head off many emerging issues. Make conversation about your child’s school day an expected part of your family routine. Dinnertime is a great opportunity to ask your child about the best part of his or her day, along with the most challenging aspects. Finding out sooner rather than later that your child is experiencing challenges increases the chances you can help him or her resolve them.
Allow your child to safely experience the range of emotions that come with a new school year, new safety rules or with being the “new kid.” Allow them to talk openly and don’t dismiss any feelings, even when they may seem dramatic to you. If a child feels their feelings aren’t being respected, they may be less likely to share them with you in the future.
Help Them Face Challenges with Schoolwork
Starting back to school means moving up to the next grade level; and, with that comes a step up in the difficulty and complexity of school assignments and homework. If your child will be taking virtual courses, that may bring additional learning curves and challenges without in-person peer-to-peer and child-to-teacher support.
“For those who choose the virtual option, I would recommend making sure they will have a structured schedule to follow. Get up at a normal time. Get dressed and eat breakfast as if he or she were going to school in person,” said Schultz. “This routine will give kids a sense of security and familiarity which is important during these times. Allowing kids to interact with peers outside of school will be important, too.”
Some kids welcome the new challenge, while others take a little more time to adjust. You can help set them up for success by:
Organizing the Night Before
Shop with your child for school supplies online this year, and help your child to organize his or her school essentials before school starts, which includes their backpack, homework, mask (if required), packed lunch or lunch money, jacket and shoes. Having these items ready to go by the door gives you and your child less things to stress about leading up to the start of school and during the weekday morning rush.
Stay Rested and Healthy
Taking simple steps such as making sure your kids get plenty of sleep on school nights or start their day with a nutritious breakfast go a long way in fueling their bodies (and brains) for the day’s challenges.
Encourage Your Child to Get Involved
Seek out safe opportunities for your child to get involved with activities he or she enjoys. Organized or virtual activities such as sports, music groups and chess club help your child associate positive memories with school while meeting new friends with the same interests. “Whether it will be via FaceTime or in a cohort of kids that your child has been interacting with this summer, or even soccer practice, allow for some social time outside of school,” said Schultz.
We’re Here to Help
Your child’s pediatrician is here to help your child grow and thrive in body, mind and spirit. If you need support in managing the stress, health and safety of a new school year, connect with one of our pediatric experts to learn the best combination of tools for them.
Article sponsored by AdventHealth South Overland Park
When you need care, you don’t want to travel far. Our dedicated, expert team at AdventHealth South Overland Park provides excellent care to communities of southeastern Johnson County, with 24/7 emergency room services, advanced imaging center, primary care, physical therapy and more. AdventHealth South Overland Park will expand into a hospital in 2021, including a new birth center, surgical services, intensive care unit, heart care and more. Visit AdventHealthKC.com/SouthOP to learn more.
Jennifer Schultz, MD: Jennifer Schultz, MD, earned her medical degree from Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine and completed her residency in the Internal Medicine & Pediatric program at Loyola University Medical Center. She is Board-certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics.