Back to school during COVID-19

Children to school

Back to school was and will always be a stressful period for some parents. This year, with the COVID-19 situation, the countdown is on, and day by day we feel that parents started getting more anxious and confused regarding sending their children to school for in-person learning or keeping them home and stick to the online learning. Parents are being torn between their children’s physical health (COVID danger) or mental health, after being isolated for so long.

For the parents who decided to send their Children to school

While explaining to your little ones about the new rules and instructions they need to follow upon leaving the house, do not forget to mention the new norms applied in order to help them adapt easily at school. By talking about the physical distancing, for example, do not stop only on what they “should do” but in addition, prepare them for changes in their daily lifestyle at school. Let them talk about how they feel, how they may feel frustrated and sad when they are not able to touch their best friend or how they are not able to sit closely to their loved ones ….
Allow your children to express their feelings, hear their emotions and do not minimize their feelings. Children, like adults, can also be anxious about the new experience they have to go through, alone! Help them create strategies that can make them feel relaxed during the school timing (for ex. choosing a specific person to talk to when they are overwhelmed, ways to communicate with their friends while maintaining physical distancing….). As much as you can communicate with your children regarding the new phase, as much they will be me more comfortable going back to school.

For the parents who decided to continue with the online learning

It may be difficult for some children and specially adolescents to stay home schooling. Expect that they will be upset: do not criticize them but instead, show them that you understand their frustration. Try to communicate with them and create a middle ground solutions that suits you both (for Ex. inviting their friend for a pizza day at home, while maintaining the physical distancing).
Definitely, as a parent, you noticed how the lock down affected your children. While home schooling children, keep in mind the following:
– With no possibility of getting out or seeing friends, children tend to spend more time on video games/TV, and more time alone in their bedroom. Note, if you decided to reduce the video games/TV timing, make sure to provide other healthy ways of entertainment.
– Being isolated at home, it is crucial for the parents to spend more quality time with their children. It is your opportunity to have a closer relationship with them.
– Routine is a necessity while the children are home, as the day tend to become without proper timing or limits. Creating an appropriate schedule depending on the children’s age, give them structure and stability (specific time to sleep, to have lunch, to watch TV …)
– Online learning can be a struggle for some children, as their focus may not be the same in a class environment where everyone is involved. A fixed place, without any distraction can help your child attend his online classes properly.
– Create a space for your child to express any overwhelming emotion. It can be done throughout a family meeting or a ritual quick chit-chat before bed.

For you, Parents!

There is no right and wrong decision in this unstable situation. No matter what decision you will make, remember, they are your children, you know them better than anyone and definitely know what suits them the most!
Perhaps it Is a stressful time for you at the moment but keep in mind, there are always ways to help yourself:
– Communicate! It can be with you partner, a family member or other parents going through the same situation.
– Ground yourself! It may sound difficult to stop yourself from overthinking, but it is very essential to reduce your anxiety. Many exercises can help: meditation, yoga, mindfulness…
– Take a break! Even if you have children and responsibilities, you need to give yourself breaks in order to keep on handling your responsibilities.
– Routine: following a schedule will always make you feel less anxious or lost.
– Self-care: no matter how busy you are, keeping on your self-care activities will help you maintain your well-being. It can be as simple as having a cup of tea alone, relaxed for 15 minutes a day…
– Create a space for yourself to express all those heavy emotions. Involve yourself in activities like; boxing, dancing, drawing, listening to loud/classic music or jogging.
Keep in mind, your children can feel your anxiety! It does not mean to hide your emotions and act in front of them but instead express your concerns in a reasonable way without overreacting.
Last but not least, if you ever feel things are going out of your hands, overwhelmed or you are noticing changes in your children’s behavior for a period of time, SEEK an advice from a specialized psychologist.

ASMA GEITANY Child, Adolescent & Adult Psychologist , OPENMINDS Center, DUBAI

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