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  • Writer's pictureDr. V.S. Gayathri

How To Prepare Your Child For Going Back To School After The Pandemic!

Updated: Jul 1, 2022

With the receding impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are already on the way back to our normal lives. With office, institutions, and schools opening up, it is probably time to prepare ourselves and our kids to go ‘back to school’. And, that refers to physically attending offline classes.

After a break of more than 2 years (for many of the kids and parents), it will definitely not be easy to simply go back to that state. Hence, it is important for both parents and educators to build awareness and prepare them both mentally and physically to take the step back to school.

First let us understand a few challenges that might arise from the situation.

Separation Anxiety: Many children have become used to having their parent or caregiver by their side at all hours of the day. For some infants, they have not yet known the outside world. Separation anxiety can be crying and being clingier when you leave your child (even for a short period of time) or when they are face some new/unknown situations. It happens most between the ages of 6 months and 3 years and is a common part of your child’s development. The stress and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic mean that such behaviours can arise in older children as well.

How can you cope up with this?

1. Listen to them: Don’t ignore what they have to say because that might lead to emotional stress for them. Hera them out and try to understand from their point of view.

2. Have a plan: Do not abruptly leave your child, explain to them why you are leaving and the fact that you will come back to pick them up. Make goodbyes positive and make a routine you follow every time you leave and pickup your child.

3. Keep calm: Don’t think that kids, especially little ones will get used to the situation immediately. So, you have to keep calm and give them time. Communicate with them to understand their woes and worries.

4. Prepare them: Talk to them beforehand, talk about the positive things that will happen to them like making new friends, fun play time, and others. Keep in touch with the teacher to discuss any concerns.

Anxiety about balancing: Janine Domingues, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute states that “When we went into lockdown mode, there was a lot of anxiety and worry around how to manage working from home and school at home. And now it’s kind of like the opposite: How are we going to manage commuting and drop off and everyone’s schedule outside home? Now there’s anxiety around that.” Mostly parents are out of practice from commuting and kids are out of practice dealing with full days and a full week of in-person school. Hence, the beginning of the school year will be a time of adjustment, with some anxiety. It might get amplified for a lot of kids, because now they will have longer days with increased study time.

How can you cope up with this?

If parents have the flexibility, they start returning to their offices occasionally before school resumes, so that the kids who are nervous about separating will get used to mom and dad coming and going again. They will gradually get used to doing things on their home and might be able to adjust well in the new situation.

Social Anxiety: One of the things that can lead to post-pandemic anxiety in kids is the social stress they might face due to going to a physical classroom with peers. While most of them will be elated to go back, there might be others who have got quite adjusted to the online situation where they don’t have to face peers or small kids who have never been in a classroom before.

How can you cope up with this?

Caroline Axelrod Mendel, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, recommends increasing kids’ social exposure gradually over the summer. You can start with a play date or go to a playground and introduce them to a slightly bigger group of kids. Eventually, they will get used to it and start more interactions which will help them to get back smoothly in a classroom.

Behavioral Challenges: In the normal situation itself, teachers usually take the first month of school as an adjustment period, where kids learn classroom routines and get acclimated to behavior expectations. Probably, to re-establish classroom norms will take longer than usual this year. Both kids who will be attending school for the first time, and those who will be going back after a break- there may be kids who will face these challenges leading to anxiety.

How can you cope up with this?

1. Flexibility is important- It is important to make them understand that they have to flexibility to accept the changes and get adapted to new things.

2. Start a proper sleep schedule- Get them back to a proper sleep schedule beforehand so that they get used to the school timings. If they continue with their old schedule, they will feel extreme stress and fatigue to cope with the timings.

3. Listen and Interact- It is always important for parents and educators to listen when a child is trying to voice out their concerns. Listen to them and them make them understand by various ways.

4. Look out for stress cues- Don’t ignore if you notice that your child is stressed because of the changes. It might be due to adjusting to the classroom or peer, or coping up with the speed of learning, or any mental stress as well.

5. Plan and Prepare- Plan things beforehand when you are intimated that schools will re-open. Make a special school going kit for them, set the schedule at least from a month back, and most importantly, make them aware of the situation and warning signals (if any).

Finally, it is important to make them aware about the norms that they still need to follow like keeping masks on, avoiding un-necessary physical contacts, washing hands frequently, avoiding touching external things as much as possible, and so on.


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