Preparing Children to Return to School – A Physical Approach
We are currently faced with all sorts of unknowns most, of which, are completely out of our control. And while we cannot dictate how others choose to move forward, what we can do, as parents, is prepare our own families for what may lie ahead. Currently, the most pressing matter is preparing children to return to school. As school’s layout the various options that parents can choose from, the American Academy of Pediatrics is backing a return to brick and mortar. But jumping back into this option has some parents nervous for their child’s health so accurate preparation for physical safety is essential.
Over the past few months, children have had varying experiences with the outside world. There is no doubt that it has caused emotional, psychological, social and even physical impacts. Because of this, their feelings in reaction to returning to school may be different.
Many of the school systems are offering virtual learning or a physical return and that is obviously the first hurdle each family faces, based on concern, desire and ability.
To give them the best advantage for a successful and safe physical return, parents should have age-appropriate conversations regarding the requirements the school system may have and practice the following four tips based on those requirements to prepare children physically for what to expect. Be honest in answering their questions, but not panicked.
- Wearing Masks: Regardless of what your personal viewpoint is on, “to wear or not to wear” a mask, schools requiring masks are inevitable. And since children rely on faces to give them cues of safety, faces covered by masks can make them more cautious and scared. If your decision is a physical return to school it is vital to practice wearing the masks and make them a routine, and fun, part of a child’s world. Letting children pick out or decorate their masks can be helpful as well as having them put a mask on one of their stuffed animals. Teaching more concrete things about masks such as how to take them on and off and the importance of not playing with them is key.
- Proper Hygiene: Parents have always taught their children to use a tissue, cover their cough, wash their hands, and not touch their faces. For children, especially younger ones, this is a lot to remember. But now, more than ever, it is especially important for these things to be top of mind. And the more parents’ role model these behaviors and have children practice them, the more second nature they will become. Having age-appropriate conversations will also help to teach children why these things are important.
- Social Distancing: This is probably going to be one of the most significant challenges children will face. They are, by nature, very hands on, especially when learning and socializing. While most parents typically encourage their children to maintain personal space, 6 ft. is much more than they are used to. Keeping this distance from peers and teachers may prove difficult, but the more these things are reinforced and practiced, the better children will get. Parents can help children understand how big 6 ft. is by measuring the distance for them and giving them a visual representation of it.
- Healthy Habits: Over the past few months, regular routines have fallen to the wayside, and bad habits have taken over. However, children’s immune systems and overall health habits must be top-notch when heading back to school. Getting back to a school-year sleep schedule and eating healthy foods will help children be focused and ready to learn and their immune systems be more prepared to ward off any potential threat. And keeping children physically active each day will also help with these things while also counteracting stress.
There is no doubt returning to school, whether it be physically or virtually is going to have plenty of challenges for both the children and you. Getting a conversation started now will help and we hope to be part of that solution in helping everyone adjust, cope and thrive.
The SKILLZ program offers small-size classes to help children return to social settings but in a more limited capacity. And since martial arts is a more individualized sport, children can get training that builds skills they need while also having fun.
As we continue through the day to day changes of what the new school year may look like, it is difficult for anyone to know the best option. What we can do, however, is to create familiarity and consistency in our approach to helping our children feel safe. While some may choose the online option for their children in the fall, all children will eventually return to school and be faced with a completely new experience so we must prepare now.
In our next blog, we will discuss how to prepare your child “intellectually” for the new school year.