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5 strategies for a successful return to in-person school during COVID-19

Many caregivers and children are feeling anxious about the return to school during COVID-19. Here’s some practical strategies to try to help make your child’s transition back to school successful.
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BC Children’s Psychologist Rosalind Catchpole and BC Children’s/UBC Post-Doctoral Fellow Sarah Anderson share some ideas: 


1. Identify what is within your control and your child’s control 

Practice what you can do in the short term. Focus on teaching your children the practical things that help to keep us all safe, like regular hand washing, using hand sanitizer when there is no sink available, not touching our faces or masks and socializing at a safe distance. This includes practicing physical distancing when possible and wearing a mask inside areas where we can’t keep that distance, including in halls and on school buses.

2. Confidence is key 

As a parent, your confidence is an essential part of your child’s successful transition back to school. Children pick up on our fear. If you find yourself doubting your decision, you might want to try writing down the reasons why you want your child to return to school and review them regularly. Most importantly, remember to communicate this confidence to your child. This will help both of you to keep anxiety in check. If you are worried about how a health condition may impact your child or family, it’s worth checking in with your family physician to make sure you have all the information you need to have confidence in your decision. 

3. Help your child prepare for school return 

Practice your routines. This could include things like going over the morning routine and even doing a practice ‘drop off’ so your child knows what to expect. Going through these steps before school starts can help you and your child get back in the swing of things. Starting to get your child’s sleep schedule back on school time, and eating healthily with regular meals and snacks are also good for the transition.  

4. Expect some anxiety 

Most families are likely experiencing some level of anxiety or stress as they prepare for the return to school. It helps to feel prepared. Try some mindfulness activities as a family, and get outside together for some family bonding when you can. It can also be helpful to practice scenarios with your child to help them know how to manage anxious feelings that may arise (e.g. deep breathing and physical activity to help relieve tension), and how to tackle challenging situations that may come up once they start school (e.g., if they are wearing a mask to school and their friends are not, practice how they can respond to questions about this). 

5. Reach out for help if you need it 

It’s not a sign of failure or weakness to need help, especially during this pandemic. So many families are nervous right now, and understandably so. Connect with BC Children’s Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre, which provides mental health and substance use information, resources, and help with mental health system navigation to families across B.C. You can talk to a Kelty parent peer support worker, or your family doctor or the administration/counsellors at your child’s school. Also have support networks in place for you as a parent or caregiver. Find a friend who will listen and lift you up. You can do the same for them! Social connection is essential for this hard work and we are stronger together. If your child is struggling and needs additional support, contact your local Child & Youth Mental Health team about mental health services available to them.

For more practical tools and strategies, you can start now to set your family up for a successful return to school, watch Kelty’s latest webinar on ‘Setting Children & Youth up for a Successful Return to School in the Era of COVID-19.’

For more tips on preparing for back-to-school, please see this BC Children’s article or this BCCDC PDF.
BC Children's Hospital; Back to school; COVID-19
Children's Health
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