Back to School After a Pandemic

I received the back-to-school supply list email this week. My youngest child was quietly resigned at this first sign of the end of summer. My oldest child told me to delete the email. I was sorely tempted.

It’s been since March 2020 since my kids have been inside a school building. They’re returning to school this year, but they won’t be in familiar surroundings. Both of them “graduated” up last year: one to high school and one to middle school. Suffice to say, they’re having some anxiety.

Childmind.org has a great article by Lianna Wilson, MA, and Sarah Strauss, MS, that encourages parents to validate their own and their child’s feelings and establishing some expectations for different routines, like morning, bedtime, and homework.

Generally, child psychologists recommend routine and structure as an antidote to anxiety and uncertainty. So, tonight we’ll be having a family meeting and start developing parameters and expectations for homework, bedtime, morning, and extra-curricular activities. I anticipate tears. Probably from me. From the kids I anticipate balking. Our structure has been, well, loose this summer. It’s going to be a shock to go from a pajama-pant lifestyle back into a hard-pant world.

My kids are coming at this from different mindsets. One would like to remain at home. The other is cautiously optimistic. COVID is a secondary worry for them. Both are vaccinated and our district is mandating masks to be worn. As much as I’d like to think that COVID is behind us, the Delta variant is a reminder that nature is tenacious and we need to listen to our doctors. But I also believe that this year is going to be okay.

Like all parents, I have so many hopes for my children. I hope they make new friends. I hope they connect with their teachers. I hope they join clubs. I hope they find their passions. And yes, I hope they don’t get sick. But I’m constantly reminding myself things are going to be okay. I ran a preschool in the middle of the pandemic last year. It was fine. It was safe. I have to keep reminding myself my kids are careful. They know what to do. They know what not to do. Their teachers are taking this seriously.

Making friends, however, is my kids’ top worry. Thankfully, the school is being sensitive about the anxiety around going back school and has planned time during the school day for them to stretch their social muscles. They’re kicking things off with orientation days for their grades. They’ll be walked around their school, shown their classrooms and lockers, and introduced to their teachers and classmates. They’ll even have to get to their bus stop at the correct time and ride the school bus. No parents allowed to ruin their “cool-kid” image.

My main wish for all kids this year is that they have fun. That they love being in school. That they make tons of friends. That they can forget for a moment last year happened.

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