We haven’t even entered the dog days of summer, but the focus for parents, educators and maybe even students is returning to the classroom in the fall.
The COVID-19 pandemic shuttered schools in March, leaving parents home-schooling children and teachers taking to electronic platforms for lessons. Now, districts are grappling with moving learning back into the schools safely as the virus grips other states and threatens a return that coincides with the seasonal flu this fall.
“There is still a lot of uncertainty right now,” said Dr. Laura Saunders, a board-certified psychologist at the Institute of Living, part of the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network. “Many moms and dads often use this time to get their kids ready for back-to-school, so what can we do to help them get ready?”
Returning to a safe educational environment is the best option for all involved, she said.
“Most kids want to go back to school and it’s developmentally appropriate for them to be there. They need the socialization, the academic stimulation and the structure,” Dr. Saunders said. “It’s hard for parents as well. It’s hard to do three jobs well — to be a parent, teacher and work in their profession.”
While education officials work out details for September, she suggested parents talk with their children about the possibilities and answer questions.
“Parents need to do their best to contain children’s anxiety and not project (their own anxiety) onto their children,” Dr. Saunders said. “It’s important to remember this has been a year of many changes so rapidly. We’re dealing with another transition.”
Good times to talk about serious issues like this, she said, are when you’re driving in the car with the children or sharing a meal together.
“Ask them their thoughts about going back to school. Ask open-ended questions and get a real sense of what they need to go back to school,” she suggested, urging parents to rely on scientific information, not fear.
Returning to the classroom can be frightening to even the youngest children who understand that something serious has been happening around them, but she said they seem ready to go back.
Parents should also prepare their children for the disappointment of limited or canceled events at school this fall, including sports and extracurricular activities.
“A lot of these things are going to happen last minute, sort of like decisions in the spring,” she said. “It’s really trying to be as flexible as possible and not promise anything. With this COVID-19 situation, things seem to be changing every week.”
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