- Talk to your children about what is happening with school. Talk about what’s new this year. Will teachers or children be wearing masks? Will learning be online? Will there be extra hand-washing or a new lunch routine? Talk about what will be the same — their interaction with friends, familiar play equipment or teachers. Be honest, including stating you do not know if the answer is uncertain. Reassure them that the adults in their lives are looking at the risks and making decisions to keep everyone safe.
- Minimize exposure to the news about the current health crisis around kids. Although families need to stay informed, limit exposure to media outlets or social media that might promote fear or panic. Be particularly aware of (and limit) how much media coverage or social media time children are exposed to about the outbreak or school changes.
- Keep to a regular family routine as much as possible. A lot of change at one time can overwhelm children. When school starts, virtually or in person, make sure that the family keeps to a routine and children get enough sleep, eat regularly, drink plenty of water and get frequent exercise.
- Talk to your children about the importance of masks. Use age-appropriate language to explain the use of masks to stop the spread of germs.
- Encourage ongoing, open communication. Encourage them to come to you if they are uncomfortable with a new situation.
- Talk about their feelings and validate these.
- Explicitly share the job of a parent or caregiver versus a child. Let the child know that it is a parent’s job to make difficult decisions, and the child’s job is to have fun with friends, do their homework and share how they feel.
- Create a visual system for parents and caregivers to use while juggling at-home work and school schedules. Setting up a red, yellow, green light system to let children know when a parent is available to help throughout the workday can help set a routine.
- Manage personal anxiety and stress to avoid clouding a child’s own judgment. Remember, there are no right decisions, especially in a pandemic.
- Model open, calm communication. Everyone gets upset at times. When you are upset, model self-calming techniques for your children, and your children may be more likely to share openly with you.
- Review your family’s safety and boundary rules. Starting back to school is always a good time to talk about good boundaries and make sure your child knows what to do if someone breaks the rules, both online and in in-person.
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