Returning to school during COVID-19? Here’s how to prepare for it

Going back to school after spending half the year at home can be a bittersweet experience

By Farheen Abdullah

KARACHI: Educational institutions across Pakistan are set to open from next week. Schools which switched to online learning nearly six months ago have been advised to open in phases, work on Saturdays and operate on a limited capacity. While various SOPs may be in place once classroom learning resumes, the thought of returning to school can induce anxiety for many, parents and children alike, especially when the pandemic is still not over. Young children, particularly, may be overwhelmed by the shift in their environment.

While organizations like UNICEF are raising awareness about children’s issues and ways to cope with them, here are a few basic ways in which you can help your child adjust.

Talk to them about school

Suddenly showing up to school with a bunch of new rules to follow after spending months at home can be too much for a child to handle. Allow your child to process the experience at their own pace by talking to them about school. Ask them what they miss the most about school, or what they look forward to. Discuss your child’s best memories at school. This will not only open up your child to the possibility of returning to school but they will also associate pleasant feelings with it.

Get them in practice

There is no debate over the fact that students will be expected to wear masks on school grounds. Young children may not adapt easily to an additional accessory. Truthfully, even adults have been struggling to make masks a permanent part of their attire. Hence, have your child wear a mask when they go to the park, or to a relative’s house. Wearing a mask for a short duration will prepare them to eventually keep it on for longer hours. You can even have your child pick out their customized fabric masks with their favourite cartoon on it.

Also get your child in the habit of using a sanitizer whenever soap is not available and not come in contact with too many surfaces.

Teach them new ways of connecting

Children love hugs. Seeing their friends in person after months can specially be exciting and hugs and high fives can be expected. However, children can be taught alternate ways of greeting their friends. Bow bumps, air fives and foot fives are some fun and easy alternates.

Reassure them

It is important for any child to know that they are loved and cared for. Remind your child time and again that their teachers and parents, both, want them to be safe. Give your child time and space to process the changing environment and allow them to ask questions. Allow them to have the confidence to share their concerns with you or with their teachers.

Children love to save the world, so explain to them how they are also contributing towards saving the world by staying safe. But most importantly, teach them that it is okay to be scared. The world is changing, and each one of us is struggling to keep up, and there is nothing to be ashamed of.

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