Back in March, schools closed quickly and suddenly, shocking parents and kids alike. There were no goodbyes and nobody had any idea of what was to come. These past months have not been easy and the summer “holidays” seem to have brought a bit of a break. However, there is that very big question that has been lingering, which has not been answered yet: What will happen in the next scholastic year?
Although everybody is in agreement that schools should reopen when it is safe for all involved, many countries, including Malta, have announced that there are plans for schools to reopen in the next scholastic year. The American Academy of Paediatrics says that children learn best when they are in school (2020). However, how the new scholastic year will work will greatly depend on how the scenario is, closer to the opening of schools. What is nearly sure is that going back to school will be quite different to what we are used to.
But with all these uncertainties, how can parents/guardians prepare their kids for this new school reality?
- Let them express their feelings
While some kids may be excited to return to school, others may be feeling anxious. Therefore it is important to create an environment which is supportive. It is good to have an open conversation to answer their questions and encourage them to express their feelings. Let them know that it is ok to feel anxious during these surreal times.
- Reassure them about safety measures
Obviously no school will open unless all the safety precautions have been taken. A lot of work is being done in order to prepare for every scenario, so it is good to reassure your kids about the safety measures that will be in place to safeguard the students, educators and all involved. As a parent or guardian do not be afraid to ask questions to the school administration if there are any things which you are uncertain of.
- Encourage other ways to stay connected and be positive
Although kids will most probably be asked to keep a safe distance from each other, you could encourage your kids to find other ways to bond and stay connected with school friends, such as activities which can be done without physical contact. Remind them about the positive things that they will experience, such as being able to see their friends and teachers and learning new things.
- Encourage personal hygiene
You should also encourage your kids to do their own part to keep themselves safe. Although I think that by now all kids have been educated about washing their hands frequently and sneezing into their elbow, it is essential to keep reminding them. The wearing of masks can also be very frustrating for kids, but it is important to emphasise the importance of following these instructions, in order to take care of themselves and their loved ones.
- Prepare them for what to expect
When official information about the return to school is issued, share this information with your kids and explain how this will happen in terms that they understand. If your kids are prepared ahead of time, they have time to adjust. It is good to also prepare your kids for the possibility that school might need to close again. Try to be positive about this possibility and remind them that learning can also be done from anywhere.
In conclusion, it is essential that as a parent you are proactive in your conversations with your kids and check how they are feeling. Although we as adults are very anxious too about all this, try to remain calm and not transfer your concerns onto your kids.
Ann Julene Hili is a Career Guidance Practitioner with Willingness. She specializes in working with teens and young adults who are in their educational and career transitions. She can be contacted on email@example.com call us on 79291817.
Services.aap.org. 2020. COVID-19 Planning Considerations: Guidance For School Re-Entry. [online] Available at: https://services.aap.org/en/pages/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-infections/clinical-guidance/covid-19-planning-considerations-return-to-in-person-education-in-schools/
Unicef.org. 2020. ‘What Will A Return To School During The COVID-19 Pandemic Look Like?’. [online] Available at: https://www.unicef.org/coronavirus/what-will-return-school-during-covid-19-pandemic-look