During a pandemic, it can be nerve-wracking for some children, even though returning to school can be exciting. According to an eleven-year-old Zion Shadd, he is troubled about going back to class to start Grade 6 in the COVID-19 era. Shadd said,
“I don’t want to get coronavirus.” Besides, Jenna Kedy, Halifax high school student, wondered how the student body would adhere to public health restrictions when in the classroom and stated that she was also worried about returning to school. Kedy said, “In high school, we’re all in different classes, so I’m worried how that’s going to work with the bubble situation.”
Children face a whole host of new potential stressors, and navigating them as a parent can be problematic because of the uncertainty of the way students are set to return to class. With back to school, children must adjust to new coronavirus norms in the classroom like mask-wearing, physical distancing, and in some provinces, teachers dressing in PPEs.
Nevertheless, experts recommend how parents can assist their children in managing back-to-school anxieties by searching for early signs of growing nervousness. Child psychologist Ann Marie Joyce explained that teenagers might get more irritable and snappish while younger kids may get clingier, more tearful. Joyce said the family should address the problem directly.
Experts also recommend that parents should demonstrate a sense of calm for their kids by confronting their own anxieties first. Tania Dasilva, Child, youth, and family therapist, recommends families to hold weekly meetings ahead of school and in the first few weeks to talk about any COVID-19 anxieties the children could have. Dasilva said if kids are distressed about something throughout the week, they know there will be a time and place to address this together. Limiting screen time, maintaining a regular sleep schedule, and visiting the school grounds beforehand to familiarize children with the facilities are other coping strategies.
Focusing on what children can control, like their hygiene, is another way to help ease fears. Dr. Shimi Kang, a psychiatrist in Vancouver, stated that before returning to the classroom, a child should be an expert in handwashing. Kang said a child should be a master in handwashing. Shimi stated that washing hands might seem like a simple task, but practicing at home may assist children in understanding the importance of doing so while at school. Also, according to Shimi, proper use of a face mask is another mandate that parents should continue to rehearse with children.