5 Back to School Tips Amid COVID-19 Spread
Going back to school amid the COVID-19 spread is on the top of all our minds. For many families—whether children are heading to pre-K or high school—stress levels are high, and parents are struggling with the decision of what is best for their individual situation. No matter your decision regarding virtual or in-person learning, these 5 tips can make going back to school a positive experience and help kids get excited about learning.
1. Re-establish a routine.
Set regular bedtime and wake-up schedules. Even if your child will not attend school in-person, it is important to wake-up, have breakfast and get dressed for the day. Use these sample schedules to help build a routine that works for your family. You can make the morning less hectic by having your child pick out an outfit the night before. Help them build confidence by setting an alarm and getting themselves dressed in the morning. If you participate in virtual learning, make time for recess and physical activity.
Consider using a product like Lock Laces that turn their favorite shoes into slip-ons. It frees you up to finish your work call or laundry and allows them to gain independence by putting on their own shoes to get out the door faster! Lock Laces is offering a 3 for $21 special and donating 25% back to GiGi’s Playhouse.
2. Discuss how going back to school will be different this year.
If your child will go back to in-person schooling, prepare them for the changes they will see. Desks will be separated, possibly with plastic dividers. They may not be changing classrooms or eating lunch in the cafeteria. There may be temperature checks before going into the building. Help them understand the need for social distancing. Explain that everyone will be wearing masks and they will need to keep their own mask on all day. Prepare in advance for wearing masks for longer periods of time. We have valuable resources on teaching kids about mask-wearing and other safety tips here: GiGi’s At Home Family Resources. If you have the means, have a few fun masks with their favorite colors or characters and let them pick it out the night before to match their outfit!
If they are learning virtually, explain that the teacher and classmates will be seen on the screen. Do a trial run with friends and family on Zoom or GoToMeeting or Google Hangouts to get them used to listening, learning, and speaking in turn virtually. Make it fun by using a virtual background like these, if the school allows it.
3. Talk to your child about their feelings.
Are they scared to go to school? Sad that they will miss being with their friends during virtual learning? Ask and listen. Children have been listening to us and watching the world around them. It is important to remember that your example is what they will mimic. Speak positively and optimistically about the school year, even if you have fears and concerns. Let them know they can talk to you about their feelings. Teach them how to take deep breaths or count to ten if they are anxious. Remind them that it will be a great day even if it looks different than they are used to and stress that it is only temporary to help us all stay healthy!
4. Create a space for learning.
Whether your child will be home-schooling full time or part time, it is essential to create a comfortable and quiet space for learning. It can be the corner of the kitchen table, a desk in their room, or a cozy spot in your home office or bedroom. Add some fun touches to make it inviting; a picture of their best friend in a frame and a caddy with pencils, crayons and other age-appropriate supplies will make it a place they want to be every day! If you are working from home or have other children in that same space, invest in headphones to keep the noise and distractions to a minimum.
5. Remember that we are all in this together.
This school year will be an adjustment for everyone. Have patience and be flexible as you, your children, and the teachers adjust to this new COVID-19 environment. Talk with your school counselors and pediatrician if you have questions or concerns about your child’s physical or mental health. Reach out to friends, family, and neighbors for assistance when needed, or simply to talk about tips for how they are handling similar situations. You are not in this alone. We at GiGi’s Playhouse are always available to lend an ear, share a virtual hug, or provide other resources to help guide you during the school year.
Stay tuned to your local school district for the latest details and plans for the upcoming school year. And please stay in touch with your local GiGi’s Playhouse family! We continue to add live and on-demand resources through our GiGi’s At Home program geared towards how individuals with Down syndrome learn and interact with the world around them.
Have a great school year!