By Lloyd Fisher, MD
Reliant Medical Group Pediatrics
President, Massachusetts Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
Dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic has been particularly difficult for families with children. Most schoolchildren have not physically attended class or engaged in any typical after-school activities for months. Parents are now challenged with preparing their children for a very different type of school year this fall, one which will be unlike any they have experienced.
Whether your children will be attending school in person each day, learning remotely, or a mixture of both, it will be important to prepare them mentally for what’s ahead and set some expectations. Parents know that the school year provides more than just academics for children. It also helps them develop important social and emotional skills that can’t be duplicated remotely. School also provides structure to daily life and an opportunity for children to participate in activities they love. Here are some tips on helping your kids adjust emotionally to returning to school this fall.
Talk to your children about their feelings about school. It’s important to know if they are stressed or worried about physically going back to school or about learning from home so you can help address their concerns. Some children will be very excited to go back, others may be fearful. Some will have anxiety about not meeting their teacher in person and having to sit through classes on screen. Remember that if you show signs of stress and worry over your children returning to school, your children will pick up on those feelings. Let them know you are concerned but confident it will work out.
Schools will have important safety measures in place that your child has not dealt with before, like having to sit alone on the school bus or wearing a mask all day. It’s important to let them know what they should expect. Many favorite school activities, from field trips to sports, will either be scaled back or cancelled. There is also a chance an outbreak of Covid-19 in your area could cause the cancellation of in-school learning entirely. Talk to your children about these unexpected challenges and possible disappointments. Let them know you share their frustration. Encourage them not to look too far ahead and take the changes they are experiencing one day at a time.
Practice Wearing Masks
Most children have done an excellent job of wearing masks. Schools that open in-person will be having periodic mask breaks; however, the children will still need to keep masks on for most of the day. Make sure that your child practices wearing masks for increasingly longer periods of time prior to the start of school this fall. Bring your child to a store so they can see that mask wearing is universal at this point when in public. Have them practice while doing activities at home (watching TV, playing video games, playing a board game). Schools will require that your child has multiple masks so find masks in colors, patterns, or designs that your child enjoys wearing. There are very few children who have medical conditions which would prevent them from being able to wear a mask. If you have questions or concerns discuss with your child’s primary care provider.
Set Up a Learning Center at Home
Since there is a good chance your child could spend some time at home learning remotely, set up a dedicated space for them to work in – away from distractions. Try to make it an environment that will be fun to learn in and allow your child some input. They will be happier learning in a setting that they enjoy.
Let your children know that the problems that are affecting them will not last forever. Encourage them to stay positive. If possible, help them replicate some of the activities they miss. You could suggest organizing games in the backyard with neighborhood kids or putting on a play in the basement for family members.
Practice Model Behavior
Everyone in the family has to be aware of how easily Covid-19 can spread. Demonstrating to your children key safety measures, such as wearing a face mask, practicing proper social distancing, and frequent hand-washing will help them understand the importance of taking precautions and make it easier for them to adapt to these protocols at school.
Watch for Behavior Changes
Not every child will adjust easily to the school changes caused by Covid-19. Talk to your child about how school is going and look for changes like excessive crying or irritation, sadness or worry, changes in eating or sleeping habits, or difficulty concentrating – which could be signs that your child is struggling with stress or anxiety. Check to see if your school provides mental health services to students in need of support. You can also ask your pediatrician for help with mental health resources if they are needed.
(Resources to help children with mask-wearing)
About Lloyd Fisher, MD
Dr. Lloyd Fisher was one of those people who always knew what he wanted to do for a career. “I never really thought about anything else other than becoming a doctor,” he explains. “To tell you the truth, I knew it even when I was five years old. Maybe that’s why I am so happy practicing medicine now.”
For Dr. Fisher, working on a one-to-one level with his patients is very important. “To be a good pediatrician you have to...View profile View posts by this doctor