Preparing for school in turbulent times
This school year is going to be anything but normal. You may be working from home while your kids study virtually. Or they may be going back to the classroom at a safe social distance, mask on and hand sanitizer at the ready.
Regardless of where your kids will be studying, there are ways you can prepare your children to make the switch from summer to study a little easier and safer, said Lynn Myers, nurse manager of behavioral health services with Amita Health Mercy Medical Center Aurora.
"The most important item to keep in mind is good communication with your young one," Myers said. "Talk to your child and make sure you're listening. Address their anxieties about returning or not returning to the classroom this semester and all the changes that may bring."
If your child is going back to the classroom, Myers suggests preparing them to tolerate wearing a face mask for a long period. She recommends wearing one for longer periods of time around the home.
"You should even practice reading with the mask on," she said. "Talk to your child about when it's OK to take a break from the face mask, when they are alone or socially distanced outdoors."
Another important way to prepare your child for the new classroom normal is to create games around social distancing at home to take away some of the stigma when they get to school. Children need to learn and practice what their bubble looks like, Myers said.
Other tips Myers had for helping your child prepare for school this year include:
• Whether studying from home or school, get back to a school time routine by going to bed early and setting a wake-up time.
• Discuss changes that will occur when your child goes back to school, stressing the importance of working with teachers to meet new guidelines. Model kindness in all the changes for your child.
• Learn from the crisis. Many families have reinvented themselves and the focus on family can continue with the return of the school schedule.
• As carefully as you are monitoring for changes in physical symptoms in your child, also monitor for symptoms of depression and anxiety. This new school year, in particular, will be stressful for many children.
• Seek help early for any anxiety or depression your child may experience, as early intervention and support are critical for their development.
"Most of all, be honest with yourself and your child," Myers said. "You may not know how the school year will progress, but the importance of open communication and support is the best way to get through."
And, when necessary, call in support during this unusual parenting journey, she said. Many local hospitals and health care providers, including Amita Health, can connect you with the pediatric behavioral health specialists needed to ensure a healthy transition during this difficult time.
• Children's health is a continuing series. This week's article is courtesy of Amita Health.