Back to School in the Era of COVID-19
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have caused us to redefine many aspects of life, including back-to-school planning. With a variety of learning modality options, uncertainty on policies and procedures, and last-minute communication, many families are experiencing heightened stress and concern navigating the upcoming school year.
Your personal situation and unique needs will play a role when making the wisest decision for your family, but no matter the decision that is best for you, back to school planning will look different than it ever has.
Tips to Manage the Transition
For those families that will be moving forward with a virtual learning component, it may feel like a completely foreign territory. Read along for some tips on how to manage the transition into the upcoming school year!
Whether your family has decided to enroll in 100% virtual learning, or a hybrid of distance learning and in-person, there may be additional challenges in developing the most effective plan conducive to your child’s education without neglecting your peace of mind!
- Establish a simple and realistic daily schedule, that specifies times for schoolwork, for breaks, and for family time. Try to set a consistent start time and end time – this will assist in creating a stable routine for the family to follow.
- Set up a workspace specifically for distance learning. Involve your child in this process, so they feel like it is their own individualized space! This will also help in separating school time from playtime.
- Prioritize assignments and tasks to promote effective time management.
- Use timers to assist with focus and staying on-task.
- Encourage your child to participate in a variety of different activities to keep them stimulated and engaged throughout the school day. This can include outside playtime, combining digital learning materials with workbooks and worksheets, creative arts, and time that is dedicated solely to leisure.
- Provide time for your child to connect with other students and friends online! Ask your school if they have any plans to allow for virtual social time amongst students to maintain social interaction and connection.
- Research blogs and YouTube channels to get ideas on how to prepare for at-home learning.
Have open conversations as a family
Parents and children alike may be experiencing stress and difficulty managing this transition. It’s important to have open and honest conversations as a family to regularly check in with each other. It may be helpful to set up a weekly meeting time dedicated to discussing family members’ emotional experiences, coping strategies, and any challenges that have arisen.
- Provide updated and accurate information about COVID-19 that is appropriate for your child’s developmental level. Help them feel a sense of control by discussing healthy habits to engage in during the pandemic.
- Offer a space for all family members to pose questions or concerns without judgment. Invite open discussion and provide opportunities to brainstorm together.
- Validate all emotions that the family may experience. Create a household environment that allows for vulnerability and normalization of feelings that may be more difficult, like fear or anger.
- Share coping strategies – perhaps take time at these meetings to plan your next family activity, as well!
- Be a role model for your child or partner by practicing self-care:
- Take breaks
- Prioritize sleep, body movement, and nutritious eating
- Stay socially connected
- Make time for fun and leisure
Reconstruct your family routine and rituals
Your family most likely has well-established routines and rituals that provide structure and balance. Undoubtedly, these have been interrupted due to the pandemic. Reconstructing these to meet the changing needs of the current reality, while incorporating elements from your previous routines can provide a welcomed sense of stability.
- Discuss what your family’s schedule currently consists of, and utilize this to identify the best time for learning, for work, for individual time, and for family time.
- A whiteboard or family calendar can be a visual way to help stick to the schedule.
- Be intentional about establishing a balance between productivity and leisure. Think of fun, creative ways to connect as a family. Some ideas could be:
- Having a weekly movie and pizza night, where each family member takes turns picking the movie.
- Host a monthly virtual dinner party with extended family or friends.
- Protect the weekends as leisure time. Perhaps visit a new park each Saturday.
- Assign each family member a daily chore they are responsible for completing.
- For more ideas and further learning about creating family rituals, check out Dr. Bill Doherty’s book, The Intentional Family.
You Are Not Alone
This is an incredibly uncertain and difficult time. In addition to managing your personal well-being, the care and concern for your children and family members during this transitionary period can feel overwhelming. Just know that you are not alone! Pure Health Center offers individual, couple, child, and family counseling sessions to help guide you through life’s challenges.