One of the lessons that the last couple of years have taught us is that the time we have with others is valuable and precious. Many of us have been waiting for this time when we can fully transition to the in-person experience. Is this the sign we have been looking for, where we know we can socialize, connect and build on our relationships, just like before?
When we feel like we are returning to normalcy, it is natural for us to feel like the situation needs to mimic how things were in the past. We might have similar expectations for our children as they return to school. Let us look more closely at the impact of the expectations we hold for our children.
1. My child should adapt easily to in-person school
With the return of children to school, we may feel the major part of adjusting is adapting to safety protocols. However, this is only part of what children need to align with. Children may feel pressure when readjusting to bigger social circles, interacting more actively with other individuals and experiencing different modes of learning without technology. This could make children feel more physically and emotionally tired. Although tiredness is part of the natural process of transition, some children can take more time than others to get used to the new normal. Rather than looking back and basing our expectations on what used to be, it will be good to have a perspective that helps us make the most of the current scenario as an opportunity for developing new life skills.
2. My child should be able to experience a normal childhood in these times
Understanding that normalcy is subjective to each unique situation or individual can help mitigate the pressure to fit into what seems ‘normal’. While developmental milestones can be a useful benchmark, let us consider the impact of the changes happening around us at this time. Despite the circumstances that could limit children in how often they get to meet others or go out to play, we can still provide options within the home environment that could be stimulating. Children resorting to online games is a way for them to feel connected to their friends and while it can be worrisome for parents, helping them find a balance can be key.
3. My child should have confidence in resolving new challenges
Children’s confidence in general could be impacted by the lack of interactions and exposure they have been able to have at this time. Each child will be able to adapt to the changes, no matter how “normal” the change might be, though it will happen at their own time. Providing space to help them adapt and letting them make choices as to how they would like to go about a transition can help support them better.
4. My child should be happy – Starting in person school after almost a year and a half is going to be full of emotions. It is very important to remember that children look to adults for guidance on how to react to change or stressful events. Acknowledging some level of concern, without panicking is appropriate, encouraging open discussions before and after transitions can result in helping children feel safe and happy with the transition. This is also a great opportunity for adults to model problem solving, flexibility and handling change/transition as they work through adjusting daily schedules, balancing work and other commitments, processing new information from other authorities, connecting and supporting friends and family members in new ways.
Schools provide more than academics to children and adolescents. Families, schools and communities can work together to ensure students can safely return to school.