Schools are partially reopening on May 11. As parents, we might have questions, and concerns which is natural. Now, how should we deal with this situation?
Every child and every family have been experiencing this isolation period differently. Some children struggled with distant schooling and some thrived even more than in regular school setting. Some missed school a lot, felt sad to be away from classmates, whereas some were extremely happy to be home and do not want to be back in a classroom. In addition to all the complexity in our families, there is also contradictory information out there regarding the role of children in transmitting the Coronavirus. It is only understandable that some families have cold feet about sending their children to school.
Here is my advice on how to prepare our children and ourselves for going back to school, especially for the parents whose children might need a little bit of encouragement:
- Talk positive about going back to school at least in front of your children even if you are worried.
- Ask how they feel about it. Start your conversation by asking them how they feel if they have questions before you make any pre-judgements. Answer their questions with short but honest and factual information.
- Clearly explain what your child should expect at school. The classes are divided, perhaps some good friends are not in the same group as your child, it will be for limited hours, social distancing is still important etc.
- Do not scare them, instead come up with solutions. There is always the risk of your child or you catching the virus. A lot can go wrong even under ‘normal’ circumstances. There is no use in making your child (or yourself) worried about possible negative consequences. Instead, prepare with solutions. Practice hand washing, distancing etc.
- Create alternative ways to handle difficult situations in case they happen and role play those alternative ways. For example, “Let’s say a friend of yours is crying. How can you help without physically going so close to your friend? Let’s try!”
- Have virtual contact with classmates in the last couple of days to get your child excited. However, some children really do not enjoy video chats. For them, it might be a better option to keep video conversations to just one friend instead of a group chat. Or else, some small surprises you can drop in friends’ mailbox might be a good alternative.
- Have school-like routines and get sleep routine back to normal. This will help with arguing a lot less in the mornings.
- Buy a new school item (lunchbox or so) to get your child motivated again.
- You be a role model and talk about something YOU will restart for example your Dutch course. Real or not, just to show your child how to handle this process.
- Prepare a little surprise for the first day before they go to school as well as when you pick them up.
- Listen to their stories after school (when they feel like telling you) and be there if they have questions or concerns.
- Understand their emotions. We (adults as well as children) often just want to be heard when we are nervous, anxious, sad. Listen to your child without needing to answer or offer advice. Often just naming the emotion, telling them that you understand, that you also feel the same sometimes helps.
- If your child is too anxious, you can watch this video together and discuss, learn some strategies from this book, and/or seek professional help.
- If you have concerns about sending your child to school, be straightforward and have a hearty talk with your child’s teacher. Explore your possibilities.
We are going through stressful times and it is more than ok to feel stressed, confused and not knowing what is best to do. In these unknown situations, staying calm and focusing on what we have control over is what is going to help us. All the best to all of us!
For Eindhoven News: Elif Durgel
*Elif Durgel is a psychologist and parenting coach who specializes in expat parenting and child development in multicultural contexts. She is running Roots and Wings Academy.
‘Back to School’ Photo Credit: Pixabay