Preparing students for a safe return to the classroom

Returning to in-person learning might be bringing up feelings of both excitement and anxiety for your family. For most of us, school will look different this year than it has in previous years, as new policies and practices to prevent the spread of COVD-19 during in-person learning take hold. Here are a few tips to help prepare your students both physically and emotionally:

How can you help prepare your student(s) physically for a return to the classroom? 

Taking a little time to prepare for the transition to school can help ease anxious feelings in both you and your child. Consider taking a quick tour of the school before going back. If it’s not open for a walk-through try doing a practice run with the routine at home. Finding classrooms or going over new routines before it’s time for school to begin can build confidence in your child, and help reassure you that necessary precautions are in place. 

The CDC recommends:

  • Check-in with your child each morning for signs of illness. If your child has a temperature of 100.4 degrees or higher, they should not go to school. 
  • Make sure your child does not have a sore throat or other signs of illness, like a cough, diarrhea, severe headache, vomiting, or body aches. 
  • If your child has had close contact with a COVID-19 case, they should not go to school. Follow guidance on what to do when someone has known exposure.
  • Identify your school point person(s) to contact if your child gets sick.
  • Develop daily routines before and after school—for example, things to pack for school in the morning (like hand sanitizer and an additional (back up) mask) and things to do when you return home (like washing hands immediately and washing masks).
  • For more information check out the Checklist: Planning for In-Person Classes

How can you help prepare your student(s) emotionally for a return to the classroom? 

Try reconnecting with classmates outdoors at a park while wearing masks, washing hands, and keeping safe distances. This can help your child to practice social skills that may have gotten a little rusty and will make sure there is a familiar face when school starts. Getting together with a classmate also provides a chance to practice being with friends while wearing masks and staying safe as they will be required to do in school.

Here are a few other tips from the CDC:

  • Talk with your child about how school will look different (e.g., desks far apart from each other, teachers maintaining physical distance, possibility of staying in the classroom for lunch).
  • Talk with your child about how school is going and about interactions with classmates and teachers. Find out how your child is feeling and communicate that what they may be feeling is normal.
  • Anticipate behavior changes in your child. Watch for changes like excessive crying or irritation, excessive worry or sadness, unhealthy eating or sleeping habits, difficulty concentrating, which may be signs of your child struggling with stress and anxiety.
  • Try to attend school activities and meetings. Schools may offer more of these virtually. As a parent, staying informed and connected may reduce your feelings of anxiety and provide a way for you to express any concerns you may have about your child’s school.
  • Ask your school about any plans to reduce potential stigma related to having or being suspected of having COVID-19.
  • Check if your school has any systems in place to identify and provide mental health services to students in need of support. If so, identify a point of contact for these services at your school.

Key takeaways to remember as students return to school

  • It is natural to experience moments of anxiety and irritability.
  • Do your best to manage expectations. This is a learning curve for everyone.
  • Try to set aside time for special moments with your child.
  • Building a routine can create structure, and ultimately safety, for your child.
  • Remember to take care of your own stress and anxiety. Kids take their cues from how we behave. If we are managing our stress and anxiety, it makes it easier for them to feel confident and manage their feelings as well.

Resources

CDC

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