Amber Bennett, LMHC, RPT

Amber Bennett, LMHC, RPT

Amber is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Registered Play Therapist with years of experience working with children, adolescents, and their families. She has received extensive training under the direct instruction of Dr. Terry Kottman, the creator of Adlerian Play Therapy. As a play therapist, Amber believes in using the power of play. Play is a child’s most natural form of communication, to connect with clients and help children resolve their challenges in a safe, nurturing environment.

You may be in the process of deciding whether or not to send your kids to school in person or mentally preparing yourself for another round of virtual education. Trust that you will make the best decision you can for your children and your family.

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Please note, the information in this post is not a replacement for personal medical advice.

You made it! You are nearing the end of the seemingly longest “summer vacation” in modern times. As a parent, you may feel like your children have been on “summer break” since spring break and the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States. Now, it’s (finally) that time of the year again when kids go back to school…or, this fall, back to virtual school. While the transition back to school can be difficult for many kids during a normal year, this fall will likely be difficult for everyone — parents, kids, and teachers.

Back to school means a change to routine and structure. This year, there is the added stress of coping with the added precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. You may be in the process of deciding whether or not to send your kids to school in person or mentally preparing yourself for another round of virtual education. The CDC offers tools for parents and educators to help you make an informed decision. It is perfectly ok to make a different decision than your friends or co-workers. Trust that you will make the best decision you can for your children and your family.

Once you have made your decision, it’s important to plan in advance for the transition back to school. Things like meeting your childs’ new teacher, getting used to new schedule, and new classmates are all important. You may also need to help your child feel comfortable wearing a mask or face shield during at school. To help you ease the transition back to school, I have put together a few things you can do to be proactive during this stressful time.

Get back into the routine.

It has likely been a long time since your kids have been in a “normal” routine. So, readjusting to the school life before the first day is important. Start by setting more school-like hours, including bedtime and wake up routines.

Have your kids have managed to completely flip their schedules and become practically nocturnal? You might want to gradually shift to the more normal routine to let their bodies adjust. Shift one hour at a time until their bedtime routine matches the school year schedule.

Reach out to your child’s teacher(s).

Teachers got into teaching because they love children and helping them grow into successful adults. That said, many teachers are stuck in the middle between desperately wanting to get back in the classroom and being scared at the possibility of bringing the virus home to their own families. Be prepared to give your child’s teacher some grace as they navigate how to teach in this very unique time.

Your child, at the same time, might be especially nervous about meeting their new teacher, especially if there have been a lot of staffing shifts because of COVID. Help your child ease their fears and help your child’s teacher feel appreciated by reaching out before the first day of school. You know your child best, a conversation to help their teacher make a smooth transition will help everyone.

Include children in the school shopping experience.

Should you put the kids in the car and head over to your nearest department store to shop for supplies like you would normally do? Probably not. But you can still include them. Go through the supply list with your child and let them choose a few items that they get to select. Allowing them to make choices will bring a smile to their face.

If you have chosen to go with a virtual option, you might not need as many supplies or “back to school clothes,” but you can still include your child in the process. Get them some fun pens or colored pencils to help build excitement for school to begin.

Communicate.

If your child expresses anxiety about the upcoming school year, avoid laughing it off or telling them to, “Get over it.” Their feelings are real and valid. Help talk them through their worries.

Your child may very well have fear over going back to school. It’s important to talk to them about the importance of social distancing and mask wearing. Go through the list of COVID precautions that your school district has made with your child to help ease their fears. Give them an opportunity to ask questions. They might surprise you.

Practice.

One way to help kids transition is to give them a “dry run” a day or two before school starts. This can include driving by the building, walking up to the building, and even map out classes if needed.

This year, your “dry run” might also include getting used to wearing a mask for a longer period of time. Have your child practice by wearing a mask around the house. Make it fun for them by purchasing or making a mask with their favorite sports team or cartoon character. Include them in the process — masks are the hottest new fashion accessory!

Eat a good breakfast.

Start the day off right with a healthy breakfast. A hearty, healthy breakfast will give your child the energy to learn in their morning classes. This can be especially helpful if your child is not used to having a scheduled eating routine.

Don’t Put Too Much Pressure on Yourself — It will be OK.

This transition to school is not going to be perfect. There is a whole lot of new and a heaping pile of unknowns to contend with. Rest assured, that with grace, caring, and the knowledge that we are all trying — your child will have a successful school year, no matter what it looks like.

If your child has difficulties settling into the school year or you are worried about him or her struggling, it’s better to say something sooner than later. Please feel free to reach out to us at Covenant Family Solutions for support.

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