I remember my own back-to-school seasons so vividly.
The period between August winding down and September starting up was always a time filled with excitement and, of course, a tinge of nervousness.
I have memories of picking out school supplies, wondering who would be in my classes, and who my teacher would be. It feels like yesterday! While students today in the fall of 2020 (a year to remember, right?) are, hopefully, experiencing some of the same exhilarating back-to-school jitters, they are also stepping into the most collectively unknown school year the country has ever experienced.
And students aren’t the only ones experiencing this time of confusion and mystery, but as parents, I know you are, too.
One of the biggest question I’m assuming you’re nervously asking yourself today is: Will I be sending my child back to school in September?
We’re all in the midst of the debate: send them to school or participate in alternative education such as homeschooling and/or online learning.
First of all, I want to acknowledge that if this is a decision that feels difficult, know indeed it is! You should feel no shame for this feeling hard because maybe you’re feeling like there isn’t a right choice and neither decision sits perfectly well with you.
The pros and cons list on both ends are truly endless and the unknowns simply surmounting. While you maybe flip-flopping between decisions with every new article or school board announcement or phone call with a friend, know that you know your child more than anyone. You can trust yourself to make a choice – even if it doesn’t feel perfect.
This is a deeply unique and personal decision for you to make for your child and your family. If it feels overwhelming, think about taking some time to answer the following factors in order to gain some clarity and confidence.
Health Concerns: What specific concerns do I have for my children and our family?
Childcare: Am I able to access childcare in the times I may need it?
Career: How does my decision impact my family’s livelihood and my own career trajectory?
Education: How does my child learn? In which setting do I predict they would be most academically successful?
Child’s Maturity: Are they able to follow rules, listen, understand the basic precautions that would be given to them within the in-person school setting?
Mental Health: What option provides the best support for my child’s mental and emotional wellbeing?
Socialization: My child has been separated from friends and routine for the past six months. Which option supports my child to continue to learn social skills and form meaningful relationships?
Trust in the Government: Do I trust the decision instructed and implemented by the government (class sizes, sanitization, regulations surrounding masks) will help keep my child safe and healthy?
1. Keep Informed on COVID-19
Stay in touch with updates in your region and city.
2. Know the Facts
Be able to recognize symptoms of COVID-19 in your child (coughing, fever, shortness of breath)
How are you feeling? How are you managing your own mental health during this time? How you manage your own wellbeing has an impact on your child directly and indirectly.
4. Create A Safe Discussion Space for your Child
Encourage your children to discuss their questions and concerns by consistently creating a safe environment where your children can feel heard and understood.
5. Normalize, validate, and empathize with your child’s experience
Remind them all emotions are valid all the time.
6. Share Information with You Child (with caution)
Provide information to your child so they feel in the know. But always in a way that is appropriate for their mental and emotional capacity in the given moment.
7. Watch for Signs of Distress in your Child
Children respond to stress in various ways. Here are some examples:
Behaviourally – Trouble sleeping, bedwetting, headache, upset stomach, clingy, change in eating habits
Emotionally – Withdrawn, angry, sad, afraid
Cognitively – Worry, catastrophizing, thinking in all or nothing ways, thinking they can’t do anything right, personalizing problems
If you recognize these signs in your child never hesitate to reach out for support from mental health providers.
8. Make your Child Aware of Preventative Measures
Including washing hands, distancing when possible, and wearing a mask.
Incorporate play, relaxation, and routine to keep your child active and lighthearted.
10. Be Confident in your Decisions
Your child looks to you for confidence moving forward. While you may feel uneasy in certain moments, let your child know with transparency that while we all may be feeling uncertain, that in the end, we will all be okay.
1. Take Precautions
Maintain consistent hand washing habits, don’t touch face, keep hands and feet to yourself, don’t share pencils, masks, drinks/food, etc.
2. Set an Example
Share what you know about safety with friends, try to keep others safe too, when you see something you think is unsafe tell a teacher or adult, if someone looks sick let a teacher know. Be a leader!
3. Ask Questions
If you don’t understand something, ask! It is normal to feel sad, afraid, or angry about the changes that are happening. Always ask for help from someone you trust.
4. Tell Parent if you Feel Sick
Notice changes within your body that you are becoming sick such as coughing, fever, and difficulty breathing.
5. Be Kind
You don’t know how other people are managing the changes. We are all being impacted in different ways.
Throughout this pandemic there has been constant changes and there are bound to be more ahead. What we do know is there is plenty of uncertainty and we need to make a tough decision. Try your best to make a well-informed decision based upon facts, your beliefs, and what you know of your child. Every child is unique, every family dynamic is different and your decision should be a reflection of this. Try not to let the family up the street influence your decision. Think about what is best for your child! Know that you can change your mind once more information comes out. This is an evolving issue and there is a need for flexibility and understanding from all.
There is no need to right off the school year or this transition. Many teachers are feeling the same way with a lack of understanding of what it is going to look like when the students enter the classroom.
Regardless of what you choose please know you are not alone.
We are all in this together.
For more information and to stay up to date on changes within your child’s education please visit your child’s school board website. The list of links below is a sample of school boards in the surrounding areas.
Written by Tori Mudie, BA, MA, RP, CCC