Back to School in 2020: 4 Tips for a Smooth Transition
Between new safety protocols, online learning, and time away from friends, many children need extra support as school resumes this fall. Our expert educators and medical advisors are here to weigh in on ways to emotionally prepare your child for a safe, confident, and optimistic return to school.
1. Focus on the positive
There are so many great benefits to school beyond academics. “Nothing builds a sense of community like personal contact with friends and teachers,” says our chief academic officer, Dr. Elanna Yalow. “Children need a sense of belonging, and school is essential in supporting a child’s growth and development.”
Stay focused on all the wonderful aspects of school, like the opportunity your child will have to learn, make friends, build community, and develop who they are!
And, one of our medical advisors, Dr. Joelle Simpson, reminds us that “while children at any age can get sick from the Coronavirus, it occurs less frequently in kids than in adults, and at lower rates than the flu.”
2. Address your feelings (and theirs will follow)
Children take emotional cues from the grown-ups in their lives. Think about what it takes for you to feel calm and prepared (or even excited) for the start of a new school year—it will help your child feel calm and collected too! Here are some ideas:
- Talk with your child’s teacher or school about the safety precautions they’re taking.
- Establish a morning routine for the whole family now and practice it for a few weeks before the first day, to help ease the transition from summer to school.
- Take breaks from people, news, or topics that increase your anxiety. Try to make the week leading up to school as stress-free as possible.
3. Set first-day expectations
Some children are eager to resume school routines and explore new things, while others are more reserved or even fearful. “Children may already be apprehensive about returning to school, let alone trying to cope with new safety practices,” says Dr. Simpson. “Explaining these precautions ahead of time can help your child accept them as part of the school routine.”
- Explaining safety precautions your child can expect at school like wearing a mask, sticking with their group, cleaning toys and surfaces, and frequent hand washing.
- Emphasizing how your child’s actions can help keep them safe from Coronavirus.
- Empowering your child to help others by reminding them that following new routines helps keep their family, friends, and teachers safe too!
4. Don’t forget to celebrate!
“Children didn’t have time for a clean break, or any meaningful celebration at the end of the last school year.” Dr. Yalow says. “Making time now, can help your child mentally prepare for a new experience.”
- Before school starts: Plan a special activity or some extra family time and encourage your child to participate in the planning.
- On the first day: Let your child know how proud you are of them! Acknowledge the hard work of growing up, learning how to be a good friend, and exploring the world.
- During the school year: Talk with your child each school day about the things that seem little but are important to your child, like what they wonder about, funny things friends said, or which classmates they like to spend time with.
If this is your preschooler’s first year of school or daycare, look to books for great inspiration on all the feelings and expectations a new adventure like school can bring. Even though pandemic schooling looks a little different than usual, books are a great way to start the back-to-school conversation with your child.