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5 things parents can do to help their kids return to school

July 27, 2020

Adam and Darcy Miller, WellSpan Philhaven therapists and the parents of two school-age children, talk about getting your kids ready for a different kind of school year.

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5 things parents can do to help their kids return to school

Prepare

Review the specific steps your district is taking, so children know what to expect, regarding masks, social distancing or any other classroom or school changes.

Offer information in an age-appropriate way. Younger children often need repetition and can be encouraged to practice and master new skills through pretend play. Older children are usually able to understand the science behind the guidelines and can ask questions.

The way we talk about this matters a great deal. Don’t tell your kids that these changes are going to be scary, sad or burdensome, or they will almost certainly experience them that way. And let them know that they can always talk about their experiences with you.

Give kids choices

Let kids help pick out their masks. Having a say in the color and style of the masks can be the key to their acceptance. Having a variety of colors and patterns to choose from can also become a fun avenue for self-expression.

Get creative

Help younger kids to learn what social distancing looks and feels like. Try "airplane arms,” asking kids to practice by extending their arms and pretending to be an airplane while standing in line or moving around. Or have children imagine that they are in a bubble as wide as the length of their arms extended. Their task is to try not to "pop" anyone else's bubble or allow their bubble to be "popped.”

Let your kids know they can still connect with each other, even from a distance. Here’s a few ideas of ways kids can share care and affection, while still social distancing:

  • Air high fives
  • Tell a friend what you like best about them
  • Smile, which is visible even under a mask

Listen

Some children may be upset over the changes in their routines and schedules, including the loss of cafeteria togetherness, sports or certain classroom activities. Let your children talk about it. Then team up as a family to solve what is solvable and accept what isn’t. If a team sport is cancelled for the season, perhaps a more individual athletic pursuit will help soften that blow. If orchestra isn’t possible right now, maybe private lessons can meet the need for musical expression in a new way.

Reassure

Do not dismiss your children’s fears and say they are silly or should not concern them. You can offer statements such as “That makes a lot of sense, sometimes I worry about getting sick too.” Also empower your child about measures they can take to keep themselves and others safe. Remind them that we are expected to do what we can to reduce our risk and if they or someone close to them gets sick, we will get through it together.

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