How did your first week of school go?
How did your first week of school go?
Getting ready for the new school year as a family
As we wrapped up our first full week of school I hope that you had an uneventful start. Like many parents across the country (and globe), we are facing this academic year with mixed emotions that we have never experienced before.
School Boards are offering a mix of in-person and online classes for those who prefer to stay at home. There are so many rules that our children need to follow during their school day; from staggered starts in the morning to wearing masks, to one-way hallways, no cafeteria or water fountains, no athletics or extra-curriculum activities, washing or sanitizing your hands until they become dry and cracked. It’s a completely new experience at schools, unlike anything we experienced before. In the midst of a global pandemic, being a student or an educator this school year will undoubtedly be different. Being a parent and a teacher is perhaps doubly challenging.
Despite the challenges the need to have our children return to school and re-establish vital routines and connecting with their peers is a real need.
Yesterday, my daughter missed her school bus which meant almost a 2-hours of back and forth drive for me. I tried to convince her to stay home, just for the day and take advantage of the interactive online learning our school offers which is excellent. But no, she insisted on going to school. I had to listen to my 13-year-old child, who clearly misses and needs her social interactions, in spite of all the limitations she has to go through all day. She now has a transparent separator at her desk, wears a mask all day, eats her lunch at her desk, has no fun activities, clubs, or sports, nothing but sitting and listening to her teacher for hours and hours. Still, she finds it better than being at home in isolation. They clearly need to be back to life. The life we know it. The life we missed so much.
The end of summer and going back to school can be challenging in the best of times. Now that we are returning back to school with a pandemic that is still very much active in our lives, it is harder than any other year. The good news is that there are many things that you can do to support your children and youth with going back to school during COVID-19.
First off, be mindful of all the rules and regulations in place and practice patience and good self-care.
Be kind to your school staff and educators. There are going to be a lot of changes that none of us really love. Everyone is trying their best to do the right thing for our children and protect them.
While a virus traveling around sounds terrifying, the good news is that there are safe, cheap, and effective ways to stop the spread: keeping a safe distance, washing your hands often, and wearing a mask.
Talking to your children as a parent or educator:
- Children often turn to adults to determine how they should react to a certain situation. They are listening even when you don’t think they are and what they hear can shape how they feel about returning to school.
- Be positive about school and emphasize the elements your child will enjoy, i.e. seeing their friends, being able to make eye contact, feeling emotionally connected, and being part of a community
- Encourage them to ask questions and take part in these discussions
Handwashing, didn’t we master it yet?
You might think we put this problem in bed for good but still, I remind my 16-year-old boy every day. We human beings forget easily and put our guard down.
- Review and practice proper handwashing technique with your child
- Ensure they understand the reasons behind regular and proper handwashing
Learning to wear and be comfortable in a mask
Unfortunately, there are still some of us who do not understand or believe the value of wearing a mask to protect themselves and others around them. Like my 13-year-old told me once, it’s no different than putting your seat belt on when you are in a car. I found this interesting article for further reading on What the Seat Belt Backlash Can Teach Us About Mask-Wearing.
- It is mandatory for students grades 1 and up to wear masks. While it is not mandatory for younger students to wear masks, they are still encouraged to do so
- Size and comfort will be key factors in your child’s adjustment to wearing a mask. Make sure to try out different types of masks and see which are most comfortable for your children.
- Allow them to pick out masks they like
- Ensure that they see wearing their mask as a valuable contribution to society
- Review mask-wearing best practices
- No sharing
- Send multiple masks in case one is dirty or lost — let them know where you will put their extra masks i.e. their backpack or cubby.
- Label your masks if possible— children will lose them and you don’t want them going home with someone else’s mask!
- Discuss what to do with a mask that they are no longer using — ie leave in a paper bag
- Encourage them to compliment and give praise to others on their masks and unique styles
- Discuss your family rules and comforts surrounding Covid-19 and physical distancing
- Reassure them that it is okay to ask someone politely to give them more space
- Explain that their comforts may be different from someone’s else’s and that we must respect others’ wishes
- Review appropriate and inappropriate physical distance (2 meters is the recommended distance)
- Reassure them that being less physically close does not mean that they are prohibited from having fun or socializing — we just need to adjust the way we interact
- Ask questions and listen when they express concerns
- Validate their concerns and answer their questions as best as you can
- If you don’t have an answer right away that’s okay- research it together
- Acknowledge that this is a unique situation and that you too are experiencing it for the first time
- Teach them how to sneeze or cough into their elbow and start practicing at home
- Discuss the changes and reassure them that these are positive changes meant to keep everyone safe
- Praise the educators and reassure your children that they will have their best interests at heart
- Lastly, encourage your kids to document what we are going through and write their own stories. They will grow up one day and tell their kids about their Corona days and perhaps write a book about it.
- Please do not send children to school if they are ill
- Rules around children going to school sick will be more strict this year — and they should be. Children with Covid-19 can present with mild symptoms and it will be difficult for you to know if this is COVID or a regular cough/cold.
- Learn about your school board’s policy around student illness and requirements prior to return to school
- Contact your health care provider for guidance if you have any concerns
Wishing all families a safe 2020-2021 school year. Keep your distance, wear a mask.
Sources: WHO, Health Canada, and Health Practitioners