Tips for Back-to-School Season during the Pandemic
There is no doubt that being back in school is far different than anything we have experienced. Whether you are planning to send your children to in-person classes or helping them with virtual instruction, there are many important questions that you need answered to feel confident in the safety, health, and emotional well-being of your entire family.
In-Person or Virtual Classes?
Long Island school districts recently released the reopening plan for the 2020-2021 academic year. You can find the specific reopening plan for your child’s school by district here. While some schools are offering in-person classes, many are giving families the choice to do full virtual or hybrid-style courses that include a mixture of the two.
For schools offering both options, parents may choose which they want for their children. This is not an easy decision, with many factors The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released helpful decision-making checklists that can help parents break down which option may be the best for their children and family.
Such questions will help you, as a parent, understand your level of comfort with having your child return back to school as well as the feasibility of having them participate in virtual learning from home. If you are unsure how to answer any of the following questions, you should contact the school’s administrator for guidance as to your options.
Helping Your Child Adjust to a New Normal
Whatever option you choose for your child, school is going to look different in many ways. None of this is going to be easy, but with the right tips, it can be possible. Understanding that this is going to be a big adjustment for you and your child is key, and communicating with them about what’s going on and answering their questions will help keep them at ease.
For in-person classes, students will be physically farther apart. Psychologists and childcare experts encourage an ongoing exchange with your kids about what to expect when they are in school. This includes everything from the importance of social distancing and wearing a mask to changing the style of instruction.
If you are concerned about your child’s ability to cope or deal with any specific challenges, experts strongly recommend reaching out to the teacher directly. You can use that opportunity to give the teachers a heads up about your concerns, so they can give you the proper resources to help.
As discussed above, masks are a vital part of the health and safety of those returning to school, but they can be stressful for children when their importance is not explained properly. Most children will become more comfortable with masks when they see adults:
- Being role models and wearing masks at appropriate times
- Using simple words explaining why people are wearing masks
- Giving them time to try them on and get used to breathing with them on
While we all feel deep concern for the virus, it is important to ensure that your child feels heard but does not become deeply fearful of the risk of infection. The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) provides advice for helping your child process information about the virus in a supportive way, and help control their fears and ease their anxieties:
- Be Aware of How You Talk About COVID-19. Address the topic with reassurance and truthfulness. Enable them to write or draw out their feelings and respond.
- Explain Social Distancing. Explain how this keeps the disease from spreading further and what it means to “flatten the curve.”
- Focus on the Positive in Your Lives. Celebrating individual accomplishments as a family is important to ensure your child does not get overwhelmed with what’s going on in the outside world.
- Establish and Maintain a Daily Routine. Keeping a daily routine can bring a sense of security, calmness, and predictability to your child’s life.
- Monitor Television and Social Media. Watch what news your child consumes on the television and through social media and provide alternatives to the digital world when not doing schoolwork.
- Take Time to Talk. Let your child’s questions guide what you tell them; avoid giving any unnecessary information that causes uncertainty.
- Keep Explanations Age-Appropriate. Depending on the child’s age, they may require information to feel safe and secure and encourage them to verbalize their thoughts and feelings.
- Be Aware of Their Mental Health. Some children may show concerning signs, such as difficulty sleeping, while others may have full-blown anxiety or depressive symptoms; if any signs seem to last or progress, contact a mental health professional for advice.
Visitation, Daycare, and Childcare Issues
For families who know they will have hybrid or distance learning, childcare becomes a major issue and can lead to tensions within the family. Some children may need all-day supervision while both parents work remotely or return to their offices. Additional issues can arise regarding co-parenting disputes as to who will provide the childcare during work/school hours. This may arise within intact families, though it may be more likely among separated or divorced households. Regardless of your situation, planning a childcare strategy is essential.
If you are in a separated or divorced household, it may be difficult to agree on a childcare plan. At our firm, our attorneys work regularly with parents in devising a sensible childcare plan and custody schedule during these unique situations that can be agreeable to both parents. We are well-equipped to handle the specifics of your family’s best interests so that your child can return to school in the least-stressful environment possible.
Helping You Navigate These Unprecedented Times
While back-to-school season is often a straightforward time, we understand that you may have additional concerns over your child’s well-being as well as logistical questions regarding childcare visitation and schedules. If you need assistance during this time, please don’t hesitate to contact our Long Island family law attorneys for clear and caring legal guidance.
Contact Wisselman, Harounian & Associates at (516) 773-8300 to speak with our legal team for free today.