What a difficult time this is to be thinking about back to school! Not only do you need to prepare your child for going to school, you also need to think about how to keep them safe and productive when they’re schooling from home (if they’re secondary students). And then there’s helping them deal with the disappointment of school and extracurricular activities not being what they expect and want.
As you think through these issues, here are some things to consider:
1. Show you care. Listen to your child’s concerns and complaints and then help your child see the positives. Remind them that everyone is doing their best in a time when there aren’t many good options. Try to demonstrate a positive attitude toward their learning option in front of your children. When kids hear you be negative, it gives them permission to be critical as well and tends to lessen their ability to succeed. Support the school’s guidelines to keep kids safe and encourage your child to follow them, even when they don’t want to. If you have concerns about how things are being handled, speak with your child’s teacher, counselor or administrator in private.
2. Set expectations and clear guidelines for your child when they are learning from home. Have a well-developed routine for them. What time will they get up, have breakfast and be ready for online studies? Set scheduled breaks, lunch and quitting times. We all accomplish more when we work within a schedule.
3. Make sure to build in some type of exercise and/or outdoor activity into their day. Not only does it help their physical health, it’s crucial to mental health as well. Encourage your child to take a walk or do some other physical activity at some point during the day. You can also join them and use the time to connect.
4. Pay careful attention to your home environment. Make sure that any alcohol and/or prescription medications are locked up. Your child may be dealing with a lot of disappointment and may experiment with things they wouldn’t normally consider.
5. Set aside time in the evening to connect. Family meals are a great venue for this! Now more than ever it’s important to check in with them about what they’re doing, thinking and feeling. Watch for significant changes in sleep, eating habits, and exercise patterns. Don’t hesitate to seek professional help if you are concerned about their well-being. Your child’s school counselor is a great place to start! He or she can guide you to other resources if you need them.
6. If a parent is unable to be home with your child during their at-home learning, communicate with them throughout the day when possible. Think about other people who may be able to help break up their day. Is there a grandparent or other family member who could pop in, bring lunch, or call them? How about a neighbor or trusted friend? When kids know the adults in their life care about them and are empathetic to this particular time, it helps them keep a positive attitude. Maybe some strengthened relationships will come out of this!
7. Help coach your child’s perspective. Last week I came across a great article about coaching our kids through disappointment during this time. “We can give our kids one of two perspectives. That of victimhood: that they’ve lost things they’re entitled to, that they should remain outraged, and that they will be forever scarred by their current losses. Or that of empowerment: narratives of delayed gratification, of resiliency, of grieving and moving on, and of finding new meaning and new coping skills.” We can’t control so many of the things going on around us, but we can control how we respond! This can be a time of growth for all of us! (You can find the full article here.)
Kendra Callaway is currently the Program Director for Liberty Alliance for Youth and is a retired school counselor from Liberty Public Schools. She enjoys watching and helping her 4 grandchildren learn to navigate the world.