Back to School normally means excitement to go shopping for school supplies, clothes, backpacks, cleaning and organizing the kid's study zone at home. But this 2020, with Covid-19, going back to school will be very different. Different doesn't mean bad. So in today's post we'll talk a bit about managing back to school with resilience.
1. Have Open and honest discussions in the family
Make conversations based on your child’s age and maturity level.
For example, with a younger child in grades 1 to 3, you could spend some time talking about what might look different this year. Their class size may be smaller and teachers and educators may be wearing masks. Extra-curricular activities or regular school activities might be cancelled.
For older children, you could ask if there are specific things they are worried or concerned about, and talk these through with them. You can help children and youth identify their role in staying safe — such as avoiding touching their face, washing their hands or using hand-sanitizer and keeping their distance from others. Use coping-focused language that emphasizes the active role that children, youth and adults are taking to make sure things go well (following instructions, engaging in good hygiene), rather than focusing on things that are out of their control (like if a student gets COVID-19).
Parents can help their child identify their concerns by asking them what they’re worried about. Then, parents can help their child “name” the worry or concern by labelling it. For example, younger children might name their fear the Worry Monster. Simply labelling the emotion as anxiety can be helpful for older children and teenagers.
Naming the worry often helps tame the fear by helping children build understanding about what they’re feeling. It also gives parents and children a common emotion language that can be used in future discussions, and provides an opportunity for parents to provide emotional support and coping strategies. These strategies include deep breathing and using coping-focused language like: “I feel better when I talk about my worries.”
Children often want reassurance their fears won’t come true. It may be tempting for parents to say “Everything will be OK!” or “No one will get sick!” But such words can prevent children from facing their fears and developing problem-solving and coping skills.
They can also prevent children from taking COVID-19 preventative measures (like social distancing) as they may perceive the risk to be low or non-existent. Acknowledge and support your child in the discomfort that there are some things that may be out of our control, and that it’s best to focus on what we can control.
2. Focus on things going well
It’s important to acknowledge children’s worries and anxieties, but parents should also motivate their children to focus on the things they might be looking forward to. Children are likely excited to see friends, peers or teachers in person. They may positively anticipate a daily school routine and take pride in their role as a student or in minimizing COVID-related risks.
Before school starts, you can ask, “What are you looking forward to on your first day of school?” or “What have you missed about school?” Once school starts, you can ask: “What was the best thing that happened today?”
3. Build a predictable routine
In particular, in this period of constant change, children and youth benefit when we structure our home environment to be organized, consistent, fair and predictable.
Physical spaces that are clean and organized convey a sense of order and calm
Daily routines give children a sense of stability and predictability. Consistent rules help bring structure to children’s lives and combat the sense of disruption and chaos surrounding so many of us.
Organization need not extend to the entire house. It may be enough to focus on keeping eating and sleeping places clean and tidy. Routines can also be as simple as a set time for school work, a short walk after dinner each day or family movie night every Friday. Rules can also be specific to this time period, and they work best if there are clear and obvious benefits to everyone.
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3. Model belief in your own abilities
A strong sense of self-efficacy is another important factor related to resilience. Self-efficacy refers to the belief that we have in our own abilities, especially our ability to succeed when challenged.
Young people develop a sense of self-efficacy by watching you do the same.
We can help young people develop a strong sense of self-efficacy for coping with the current crisis by supporting their efforts to take on new challenges and succeed. Perhaps you can encourage your child to teach their grandparents how to communicate via video chat. Or celebrate your teenager who figures out how to get pizza delivered to your house without breaking the two-metre social distancing rule.
4. Remember to take care of yourself
And finally, it may be most helpful to remember that children do better when their parents are doing well. Under these extraordinarily stressful conditions, it is more important than ever that we make time for our own tried-and-true mental wellness strategies, be it paying attention to nutrition, going outside every day, turning cell phones off in the bedroom, reaching out to a friend or connecting with a mental health professional.
The decisions you make as a parent, are more likely to succeed with strategies that also benefit our own sense of well-being.
Be kind to yourself and seek out those you can turn to when you are struggling or troubled by these unprecedented circumstances.
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