Transitioning Back To School Mid-Pandemic

August 5, 2020

Back to School during a Pandemic

As we head into a new school year, the familiar feelings of anxiety, nervousness and anticipation are settling in. However, going into the 2020-2021 school year looks a lot different for us amidst a pandemic. Feelings are certainly heightened as we head into uncharted waters in the coming months. Parents may be feeling extra pressure with the increased role they will be playing in their child’s education from home. Teachers are adapting to new ways of teaching and connecting with their students. Employers are adapting to employees working from home and balancing family responsibilities. How does one juggle so many hats and do them all efficiently?

Just know that you are not alone. Our mantra at The Wise Family is that we are all in this together and we are all in the same boat. Control what you can control and adapt as best as you can. Feelings of uncertainty and what the future holds is a uniform feeling for parents, teachers, caregivers, first responders, essential workers alike.

Read on to see what our Wise Team of Clinicians has to say about going back to school this year.

Kasey Cain, Licensed Professional Counselor 

Greek philosopher Heraclitus is known to have said “The only constant in life is change.

We face changes each and every day, whether it is an expected change such as a change in what we choose to eat or a change in our outfits, or an unexpected change such as a sudden thunderstorm or a change in plans. This year has been like no other and we have had extreme changes in our lives in many different ways. One of the many significant changes, has been in the structure and delivery of school. As someone who works in a school system I can honestly say that the end of last year was well-intentioned organized chaos.

All summer long, school systems have been diligently working to reopen in the safest way possible. Still, you may be feeling anxious about the upcoming plan and wondering how you can prepare your child(ren) to transition back to school. For this guidance, I pull from work shared by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).

On their roadmap to a successful school opening, CASEL highlights the need for relationship building, a focus on student well-being and mental health, and strong school-family partnerships. While they are gearing their roadmap to school leaders and staff, I believe it is imperative for parents to do the same. Being in the house with your kids non-stop can strain or strengthen the relationship. Make time to work on your relationship with your child and make it clear that you support and love them. Check on how your child is feeling and if you are concerned about their mental health, reach out for help. Make efforts to communicate with the school. Open communication between families and school staff will be more important than ever before as we tackle learning in a virtual environment.

Most importantly, treat everyone (including yourself) with empathy and grace. The changes are inevitable. We handle change daily and will continue to do so!

Dorri C. Scott, MSW, Resident Family Therapist and Parent Coach 

Back to School, Zoom and Gen Z – If you are raising a child born between 1995 and 2015, you are parenting a “Generation Z Baby” – America’s video guru generation. Currently between age 5 and 25, your High School graduate probably had a “drive by” celebration to cultivate the epic life milestone, was born into post 2011 America and currently living through our nation’s pandemic.

Wearing masks everywhere is required. Washing hands – the new life rule. Social distancing is the norm and play dates on Zoom have become the “best replacement” for play dates of years gone by.

Long gone are the days of playing outside just because.

Dear parents,

NOW is the time to prepare for another “virtual” school year.  Enjoy a few extra curricular learning activities to enhance living with your prince and princess video gamer. Stress not (as best you can.) And…Have a productive, innovative and fun 2020-21 year of learning!

Try to add these activities throughout your schedule to implement connection and fun:

  • Visit a local VA park, study the environment, trees and breathe fresh air.
  • Make it a science experiment day.
  • Eat lunch outside made from a garden in your backyard
  • Take a neighborhood bike ride. Count the houses, people and places seen on your path.
  • Make it an art day. Draw pictures of your day. Frame the art.
  • Cook together weekly. Create a recipe book of all foods served.
    • Bonus: Write a story and share stories out loud weekly. Every English teacher will be impressed by not only your student’s culinary skills but also by the enhanced writing and public speaking skills.
  • Keep a journal in pictures – one for each month of the year.
  • Make it a history learning opportunity with fun family and great American moments celebrating the USA.

Need more resources, additional creative ways to connect with your child? Seeking ways to relieve stress from homework blues? Uncertain, confused, and looking for answers to connect? Do you want parent support, ideas to help raise a healthy child(ren) during the pandemic? Parent coaching is one of our many services with answers to your countless parent questions. Contact Dorri C.Scott MSW, Director of Education and Support Services at The Wise Family.

Karin Purugganan, Resident in Counseling:

Like many other parents, I have been both anticipating and dreading the announcement of what school will look like this fall. No option is good, and almost all scenarios put parents and teachers in uncomfortable roles. While I have no control over what this school year will look like, I do have control over how I present that information to my children (and clients) and how I respond.

My plan is to do the following.

  1. Print and post visual calendars for each child (I have 5 kids, but 4 in school this fall) that include login information/badges so that they are equipped with this information.
  2. Set up a permanent workspace in the house for EACH child, with an electronic device, headphones, crayons/markers/pencil/paper and multiple folders for each class/subject in an organized fashion. I plan to take a picture of this set-up and post it as well, with the stated expectation that each child keep their workspace clean and tidy, with devices charging.
  3. Decide upon three chores and three fun activities for each child, so that they cannot come to me each time they are bored.
  4. Keep a regular routine of mealtimes, and explicitly state when and how meals will happen (kids making their own, us making together, etc.)

My hope is that things will progress more comfortably than in the spring, when I felt like a wrecking ball took out all routines and processes. Continuous reminders that we can only control so much will be a daily mantra, I’m sure.

The Wise Family is here to support you. Good Luck!

Rebecca Staines, Licensed Professional Counselor

The transition back to school is going to look drastically different for families this year. While some schools are planning to have all virtual learning for the Fall, other schools are adopting a hybrid model of both in-person and virtual learning. Whatever the case may be for your family, it will be especially important to go into this school year with a plan for what learning will look like at home.

Designate a Work Space

One way to do this is to create a set space in the house where your child can work. Make sure that this space is free from distraction, has a place for school supplies, and is comfortable. This may be a good time to invest in some comfy pillows or chairs, a fun lamp, and some new and colorful school supplies to get your child excited for the new year. I would also recommend coming up with a set weekly schedule that outlines what the school day will look like.

Once you have come up with this schedule, have the schedule located in a visible place for family members to see. This could be the kitchen fridge, on your child’s desk, or posted on a bedroom wall. Now more than ever, both adults and kids need to have some sense of control and idea of what to expect for the school year.

We may not be able to change the current Pandemic status, but we can change our outlook for the new year and how we choose to spend that time. Good luck!

Tati Hernandez, Licensed Professional Counselor 

Transitioning back to school after a summer break is something that feels familiar, but it appears as though 2020 has provided us with a plot twist: COVID-19. Now, “the familiar” looks and feels different. While the anxiety of this change can look and feel big, the last several months may have demonstrated that one’s ability to be resilient is even bigger. It’s certainly going to take some time to settle into a “new normal” as it relates to attending school in the middle of a pandemic, but know that there are ways that can make the experience of transitioning back to school a little easier.

Create a strategy

A strategy that may help with regaining a sense of control and feeling grounded during these uncertain times is to create and maintain a structured environment. Cultivating a collaborative culture at home can be helpful with motivating your child(ren) with academic engagement, and remembering to build in time for social connection can make their virtual or hybrid school experience feel more meaningful and less isolating.

No matter what this new school year brings, an important thing to remember is that we are all humans first. Have those open and honest conversations about what is happening in the world and all of the changes that are occurring. Allow yourself the space to feel all of the feelings and take care of yourself.

Until next time, Be Wise!