Well it has taken some time, but finally most school districts have decided when school will be starting and how students will be resuming school. This decision has been made fairly late for most students. Many schools will be resuming school in two weeks and several schools that have tried returning to the classrooms have already started, but several are already having to interrupt classes because students and teachers have already tested positive for the Coronavirus, such as in Georgia. The children and teenagers I have spoken with are angry and upset about school resuming. However, most of them are also happy too, but don’t like to admit it. This article will explore how parents can help their children and teenagers resume school in the middle of a global pandemic.
Starting back to school in the middle of a pandemic can create anxiety and fear for some students, since they still are hearing about people contracting and dying from the Coronavirus. Also since most students have been through a great deal of stress prior to the pandemic such as dealing with daily mass shootings last year, schools closing suddenly due to the quarantine and now they are resuming school but have no idea what to expect. Many students are tired of dealing with the unknown and many kids are losing interest in school too. They want their lives to be somewhat normal again. Since most the children and teenagers that I deal with will be returning to school remotely, I will be looking at the issue from that perspective, however you can use many of the same suggestions for children returning to their classrooms for school. In my opinion, remote learning is the best option for this semester, but there are various opinions and parents need to do what they feel is best for their family.
The first thing parents can do before their child or teenager returns to school is explain what to expect at school. Children’s imagination can be very active and often their imagination is worse than reality. By explaining how remote schooling will work you are preparing your child what to expect and they don’t have to imagine what remote school will be like. Also because you are explaining all the details you are telling your child and teenager that you have inspected the plan for school and you are feeling safe enough to allow them to participate. Children know that if their parents felt the situation was not appropriate for them that you would not allow them to be involved in the situation.
The next step for parents is to listen to your child and teenager. Allow them to vent their frustration, their fears and their disappointment and any other feelings they may have about the plan for school. It’s important for them to express all their feelings and concerns so you can address them. Also if they are not allowed to express how they are feeling most likely they will start to feel resentful because they feel like no one cares about their feelings. If this occurs, they could resist participating in the remote schooling. The most common feeling you will probably hear is anger and frustration about not being able to see their friends daily at school and hang out with their friends. Remember, due to schools closing early and quarantine restrictions many children and teenagers have not been able to see their friends for several months now. Yes they understand the need to be careful due to the Coronavirus, but they are also tired of it especially when they see adults not wearing masks and disobeying the guidelines. A good example is the motorcycle rally they are having in South Dakota.
In addition to listening to their feelings, validate their feelings. Let them know they are entitled to whatever feelings they are having and this is not an easy situation for anybody. Empathize with their feelings too. Explain while it’s not easy for anyone it is more difficult for them because they are young and they want to enjoy life. You can understand how frustrating it is with no one being able to give them definite answers about when their lives may return to normal. Reassure them that you have heard all their feelings and concerns and you are going to do your best to help them through this situation.
Another important thing parents can do with their children is to brainstorm. Now that you know their feelings and concerns, you and your child or teenager can brainstorm about how you can address the various issues and concerns they have about the remote schooling. If at the end of last school year the remote schooling was slightly chaotic you can agree to work with them until you figure out the system for this year. If they are missing friends, maybe there is away they can see friends in person but still adhere to the guidelines of wearing masks and keeping appropriate distance from each other. If they are missing working out at the gym or practicing with their team, there maybe a way they can do workouts at home or there maybe coaches offering private lessons. You can also see if the school has developed an answers to these situations. Most importantly let them know you will look at all the options and you may have to consider options outside of the box because of the unique situation with the pandemic. The main point is you will work with them as hard as you can to address their concerns and make their lives feel as normal as you can given the pandemic.
Finally schedule regular check-ins with your children and teenagers. The above steps are a good beginning, however things can change. Therefore, what was working at the beginning of the school year may not be working two months later. If you have regular check-ins and something changes you can catch it before it becomes a big issue. In addition to checking-in with your child, remember to check-in with your child’s school. Ask about how your child is doing and also ask if there are any proposed changes scheduled for the remote learning. Again if there are changes being proposed, you can prepare your child so you can hopefully make the transition any easy one rather than a stressful one.
Finally, remember the children and teenagers of today have been under a great deal of stress due to the mass school shootings which were occurring daily before the pandemic and quarantine. The pandemic has only added to their stress levels. Since the beginning of the pandemic depression and anxiety disorders have increased significantly for children and teenagers (CDC). Anxiety and depression were already at epidemic levels for children and teenagers before the pandemic. Therefore, anything we can do to help reduce anxiety and depression for children and teenagers will help them adjust to the remote schooling. Remember we are all in this together and need to all work together and we will survive the pandemic. If you do notice that your child or teenager is acting more anxious than normal or appear several depressed, make an appointment for them to see a psychotherapist experienced with treating children and teenagers. There is nothing to be embarrassed about if your child needs therapy during this time.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/drrubino3 or his podcast Understanding Today’s Teenagers on Apple or Spotify.