Covid-19 is about to celebrate its 2nd birthday. The Global pandemic has lasted so long that it is difficult to remember life before all the Covid-19 restrictions were in place. With this acceptance comes a new challenge; how do we go back to the lives we lived before?
Most importantly, how do we prepare our children for the world outside after they have experienced more than a year of online classes?
Some of us adults have children who have only experienced online classes, and others have children who have become accustomed to the online system. The thought of returning to school with protocols and restrictions unsettles them.
With schools reopening in India from the month of October, how do we ensure that we tackle this dread to the best of our adult abilities? Here are some tips and tricks.
Speak to your children like equals and trust them with vital information about their own personal safety. If you have the time and resources, do a little research with them on safety protocols and communicate your fears as a parent in a rational way.
Children will then look to you for vital information and as parents, you can control the narrative in the most optimum way. This eliminates the potential of your children relying on classroom gossip or fake information in any way.
2. Have a plan and get your children to participate in the process:
Make a back-to-school plan that includes safety protocols, nutrition, mental breaks, distress signals and communication tools. Often, children find it hard to communicate with the adults in school because they do not know how to approach them. With a formulated plan that children have helped create, they can effectively communicate their anxieties and seek help when needed.
3. Prepare for separation anxiety:
It is easy for children to find comfort in the safety of their homes under crucial circumstances. Going back to school after nesting indoors for more than a year can cause separation anxiety for both parents and children.
Keep a little bit of familiarity alive by packing all their favourite meals for lunch and snack time. Write little notes of affirmation and keep a fun picture of you and your child in their school bags so they can go to their happy place mentally.
4. Prepare for behavioural changes:
Children respond to tough situations by showing you what they’re feeling instead of telling you about it. Watch out for any slight change in behaviour and talk to them about it. It is normal for them to behave slightly more aggressively, or react in fear and present symptoms of anxiety. Worry not! All these changes are normal and can be tackled easily. If it persists, enlist the help of a specialist.
5. Create a Dos and Don’ts list:
It is important to have one in place so that your children know what you are okay with and what you are not okay with once they go back to school. For instance, it is important for them to know that they are no longer allowed to hug their classmates or even shake their hands in school. With constant reinforcement, you are preparing your child to preserve their safety as well as that of the others around them.
As parents, you may have had to cope with a lot during the pandemic. So don’t find it surprising if you are experiencing deep-seated anxiety instead of relief with schools reopening. Please take care of your own mental well-being and look for parent groups that can pull you through this transition.
If it is too much, do consult a specialist. You don't need to have all the answers, and it's completely okay to feel the stress of the moment. However, rest easy knowing that things are getting better and schools are more flexible now more than ever about allowing parents and children to make decisions about their schooling experiences.