DR RADICA MAHASE
Tomorrow, children will return to physical schools. For many, this comes after two years. For some of the younger ones, it might be the first time they will be stepping into a physical classroom.
The return to school will be an adjustment period for many children as well as parents/caregivers. Two years ago, the dilemma was how to work from home, how to study and learn with a teacher on a screen. Now the dilemma is how to get dress and get to school on time, how to keep safe in an often-crowded space or how to adjust to new expectations.
Caroline Miller at the Child’s Mind Institute, a charity focusing on children’s mental health noted, “From one perspective, it’s just a return to what was normal before the pandemic. But from the point of view of families that have adjusted to remote work and remote or hybrid school, it will be a major break from what’s become normal. It will mean new routines, new expectations, new activities and new stresses.”
While many parents in Trinidad and Tobago will expect their children to “get back into it,” the readjustment process might be difficult for some children. Here are some ways in which parents can help children to readjust.
First, mask wearing is compulsory in schools so help you children get accustomed to wearing a mask. This is especially important for the younger children who were not accustomed to wearing masks for long periods. Help them adjust by letting them keep it on at home for some time, while monitoring them to see that they are breathing properly through the mask. Also, make sure that it fits them comfortably by adjusting the size and straps if necessary – this is especially important for those with smaller faces.
Help your child to get back into a routine that involved getting dress and getting out of the house. It is expected that after being home for so long, the first couple of weeks will be tiring for many of them. Use a visual schedule to help them ease into a new routine – starting with smaller tasks for shorter time periods and then build up to more difficult task that will take more effort and energy. For example, it might be difficult for your child to attend school all day and then come home to long revision sessions or extra classes.
Familiarise yourself with school regulations, especially those regarding covid19 protocols, and make sure your child understands these. Schools might have different plans for social distancing (if that is possible at all), sanitising, etc. Even if it is not stipulated by the school, you should prepare a small care package for your child, with personal hand sanitiser, wipes, etc. For the younger children, run through different scenarios so they will know when to use these. Remember, the re-opening of physical schools does not mean the end of covid19.
Teach your children that it is okay to ask for help while at school. Children who are entering new schools might need help to find their way around the school; they might be unclear about the school’s expectations and so on. Some might even b