Five Ways to Help Ease Your Child Back into School During COVID-19
Going back to school during level 3 lockdown of COVID-19 is a daunting prospect for any child. Our children, whom we have been keeping safe at home, must now get used to a “new abnormal” of sanitising, wearing masks and social distancing at their schools. Gone are the days of hugging friends and shaking teachers’ hands. Gone is sharing lunchbox treats with besties at breaktime. School days in the time of Corona feel a lot like being in a scary movie, especially for the children who are making their way back to their classrooms. However, it doesn’t have to be a frightening experience. In fact, by remaining calm and providing our children with love, support and guidance, they should ease back into school without any trouble at all. Here are five ways you can prepare your child mentally and emotionally for school during the pandemic:
1. Be a role model
It goes without saying that the parent is the child’s first and greatest role model. If you are overly anxious and fearful about your child going back to school, they will in turn become scared and overwhelmed by the experience before they even go back. It is therefore of vital importance that, as a parent, you work on your own mental and emotional state of mind so that you can be strong, calm and supportive for your child. Remember, if you are feeling anxious, they will feel even more so as they are not equipped yet with the maturity to rationalise their concerns and fears. You are their anchor so find the strength to be one.
2. Practise and prepare at home
Your child is going to be wearing a mask at school for anywhere between 6 and 7 hours. They will only be allowed to remove the mask when they eat and drink at breaktime. Imagine wearing a mask for such a long period of time? The temptation would most likely be to take it off. However, by getting your child to start wearing their mask at home every day while they are schooling online, will train them to wear a mask easily and naturally by the time they are back in the classroom. Also, have the social distancing talk with your child again. Remind them that things will be a lot different when they go back. They won’t be able to hug their friends or huddle up close to them. They will have to talk to them with their masks on and separated by at least one metre between them. Let your child know that their hands will be sanitised regularly – perhaps send them to school with their own hand lotion. Get them to keep practising social distancing when you go out to the shops. And, get them into a good habit of washing or sanitising their hands. Practise these three things until it is second nature to them.
3. Be open and honest
Don’t be vague about COVID-19 when your child asks questions. Tell the truth in a sensible and calm voice. Give the facts (and only the facts). Explain how the virus spreads. If you aren’t sure yourself, you can visit our COVID-19 page to get all the information you require. Always end your discussion with your child on a positive note – there is a lot to be hopeful about, for example:
- If they get COVID-19, they most likely will only have mild symptoms if any at all and it will feel like getting normal flu – then they can spend time in bed getting lots of love from mom.
- By wearing a mask they are actually being real-life heroes and saving the grannies, granddads and weaker adults from getting a bad case of COVID-19.
- Scientists and doctors are working day and night to find a cure, and this must mean they will find one quite soon.
- Most people across the world will only get a little sick and only a small number of people get very sick with it and will then need to go to hospital.
- The doctors and nurses at the hospitals are like real-life heroes because they are doing all that they can to make the very sick patients well again.
- Most of us have strong, healthy bodies that will fight any germ that tries to make us sick – our bodies are amazing like that.
Your child may also worry about you getting sick. Reassure them that you are also looking after yourself and have a strong, healthy body, and that you are very cautious when you leave home by wearing a mask, washing hands and practising social distancing.
4. Listen to your child
Your child is going to pick up lots of misinformation. They will come to you to talk about what they have heard. Listen to them and once they have voiced their concerns, calmly provide them with the right information and, as mentioned in point 3, give them something positive to think about, too. If you feel your child is becoming overly anxious, it might be a good idea to contact your doctor and find out how you can help your child from becoming stressed out and depressed. Allowing your child to simply voice their anxieties while you listen is already a great way to keep their mental health in check.
5. Give them a choice
Give your child the option to school from home if they are feeling extremely anxious and your situation allows for them to stay at home. This way you can help them slowly ease back into the idea of going back to school. Or, let your child know that they have the choice of schooling from home if they find the back-to-school reality too frightening. However, first they must try going to school to see what it’s like and because their friends miss them. Usually, by giving children more than one option, you find that they immediately feel better about the situation as they feel as if they have a sense of control over their lives. Also, most children will fear the unknown but as soon as they go back to school and see their friends and teachers, they quickly settle into the new routine of wearing masks and social distancing. If you want to know more about COVID-19 and how it will affect your child’s mental and physical health when they go back to school, contact your doctor who will be able to give you the most sensible advice during these uncertain times.
For more information please contact:
Ms Gugu Nyawose
MA (CLIN PSYCHOLOGY) Zululand (2001)
Ethekwini Hospital and Heart Centre
Telephone: +27 82 427 2083
Dr M Ndhlovu
D Litt et Phil South Africa (2011), M Soc Sc (Clinical Psychology ) North West (1999), (Clinical Psychology), BA Hons (Psy) BAEd
Zamokuhle Private Hospital
Telephone: +27 11 923 7814
Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.