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Getting Back to School: How to Prepare Yourself and the Child

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The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted our lives with the uncertainty and ‘new normal’ it brought upon us. Our lives have been riddled with various challenges; be it emotional, financial or physical. This new normal has been especially tough for children who were unable to grasp the changes that suddenly required them to stay at home and limit their day-outs. In the last few months, parents and students alike have become accustomed to the online mode of classes and developed a routine of their own to balance life one day at a time. The possibility of schools re-opening has many parents worried about the safety and security of their children.

There must be several questions on your mind; “What kind of challenges will the re-opening of schools pose?”, “Will my child be able to adapt to school after a year of lockdown?” or “Will my child resist going to school?”. Your child is equally confused about these changes and may show signs of sadness, anger, agitation, fatigue and irritation. They may be hesitant to engage in social situations and instead prefer spending time at home or in their own private space. Here are some ways you can equip your child with the necessary skills to make their transition from online to offline classes comfortable:

Talk to your child

Children will have their own perceptions about the re-opening of schools. Help them verbalise their thoughts and feelings by asking them questions like “What are you looking forward to?” or “Is the re-opening of school worrying you?”. Having multiple small conversations with children about the changes and challenges they may face would help them understand the situation in a clear and consistent way. Encourage them to communicate with you and validate their perceptions. Younger children will have many questions like “Can I hold my friend’s hand?” and “Can I share my friend’s tiffin?”. You could collaboratively come up with solutions and coping methods for the benefit of your child. Some children may repeatedly ask you the same question to ease their discomfort; so give them the space to express themselves by asking you anything.

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Review expectations

Children may get back to school with the mindset that everything will be the same since they last attended; which may set them up for disappointment. Schools will have several safety mechanisms in place which would be new and unfamiliar to your child. Secondary school children might have looked forward to their school trip which has been cancelled this year or some primary school children would be uneasy around new sanitisation stations in school. Inform your child about these changes and challenges that they may experience and encourage them to communicate their anxieties with you.

Discuss hygiene practices

Teach your child behaviours that would safeguard them from contracting the virus. Here are some things you can focus on:

  • Being healthy and clean: Inform your children that they should wear masks all day and wash their hands regularly, especially before lunch. Remind them, that while socialising is important, they should not share their stationery or tiffin with their friends.
  • Disinfect their surroundings: Send your children to school with a sanitiser and encourage them to disinfect their desks and chairs once in a while. Some classes may require children to move between rooms, and your child should be encouraged to disinfect any new surface they come in contact with.
  • Maintain Social Distance: Children may want to hug or shake hands with their friends whom they haven’t met in a long time, however, encourage them to maintain social distance.

This could be a challenging task for younger children, but constant reminders and modelling would help them remember to make healthy choices.


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Encourage self-care

It is likely that your child’s routine may have been disrupted due to the lockdown. Going back to school may be a tiring experience for your child because they aren’t used to the commute or being surrounded by many people anymore. Self-care practices like maintaining a healthy sleep schedule and developing healthy eating habits are thus very essential to allow your child to rejuvenate and remain energised throughout the week. Parents could address these routine changes and discuss with their children the importance of self-care.

The decision to send your child back to school is not an easy one, and children will pick up on your anxiety if you panic. Be calm and discuss with your friends and family the apprehensions you are experiencing. This period is a transition for both you and your child so take some time to adapt to the demands. While emotionally preparing your child to go to school, teach them about the inevitability of change and provide them with warmth and support. Take some time to equip them with problem-solving and coping skills which would make them adaptable and perceptive to challenges. Lastly, remember to take care of yourself and ask for help in times of need.

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