Back to school season is here and while we’re excited for the return to in-person learning, this year comes with a mix of emotions. Our kids may seem happy and well-adjusted but living and learning during the pandemic has been stressful. We can’t expect our kids to remember everything about school after so much time away so it’s important to take time to prepare for a return to in-person learning.
You may think that preparing for this school year is the same as every other year. True, you still need to shop for school supplies (please by 2x hand sanitizer, wipes, and tissues for your teachers!) but there’s also important social and emotional work that needs to be done to prepare for a return to in-person learning.
According to new data released by the Morgan Stanley Alliance for Children’s Mental Health, nearly half (48%) of U.S. teens are concerned about experiencing social anxiety transitioning back to normal life post-pandemic.
While educators have been anticipating how the transition might affect our students, this statistic highlights the importance of social and emotional learning (SEL). SEL helps kids work on things like coping with feelings and setting goals. It aids with interpersonal skills, builds self-esteem, and can help those who learn and think differently talk about their challenges. SEL is a fundamental building block that is critical to learning for kids of all ages.
3 Things to Do at Home to Prepare for a Return to In-Person Learning
This year SEL is a huge focus in schools and classrooms around the country. As teacher, I know that if my students aren’t socially and emotionally well, they’ll have a hard time learning. However, it’s just as important to support my two teens at home by helping them develop social and emotional skills.
Things like planning ahead, getting organized, and making kids feel safe help kids feel supported. But the way we need to look at these 3 things with our kids is different after a year of being at home. Here’s a look at how working together to plan ahead, get organized, and help kids feel safe at home can support their social and emotional learning and tips to help students of all ages feel ready for what this new school year brings.
Plan Ahead as You Return to In-Person Learning
Kids thrive on routines and anxiety can be lessened if kids know what to expect. Routines that are part of the school day bring a great amount of comfort because each day is the same. But don’t expect your child, tween, or teen to remember every detail about their school day before they went virtual.
Before school starts, take some time to go over each part of their day.
What needs to happen at home before the day starts
Now is a good time for developing a morning routine of getting up at a certain time, having breakfast, getting dressed, and brushing teeth. Once school starts, have kids help pack lunches and make sure items get in their backpacks for the school day.
Also discuss about what they should do if they forget an item. With everyone at home working and learning during virtual school, it’s important to think through what they should do if they leave their lunch at home, if they forget their instrument, etc.
You may want them to seek help from school staff, but it can be scary for kids to ask adults for help. They may feel more comfortable calling you and having you facilitate next steps with school staff. While this shouldn’t be a practice that continues through middle and high school, recognize that limited interactions with staff in the building may make your child feel more timid.
Getting to and from school
Gone are the days where getting to and from school meant sitting down in a chair and logging on and off Zoom. You may walk to school, ride the bus, or have teens who are old enough to teens who drive themselves. Make sure you go over the logistics of getting to and from school because this provides a sense of security.
If the schedule changes each day, make sure your kids know. A digital family calendar such as Skylight can be helpful or if you’re a paper planner person like me, I can’t live without my MomAgenda! Make sure both are accessible to your kids so they get used to checking the family calendar for changes as the year goes on.
The day’s school schedule
The first couple of weeks are school are all about developing routines. Once your child starts school and gets their schedule, asking them questions about activities they did during the day helps them remember the order of the day and adds a sense of security.
Any extracurricular activities
With virtual learning and limited extracurriculars, kids aren’t used to remembering so many schedules for the different days of the week. Remind kids about what’s happening after school either the day before during dinner or the evening hours or before they leave for school in the morning.
If planning ahead to help your child feels overwhelming, start slow. Take a look at the list above and choose one thing to do now. Space out the rest. Maybe focus on your morning routine one day. Practice walking to school or visiting the bus stop over the weekend. You don’t have to do all these things at once as you prepare for a return to in-person learning. Doing too much could contribute to start of school anxiety.
Get Organized as You Return to In-Person Learning
Kids of all ages can help with back to school organization! By doing so, you’re helping them build confidence and self esteem. Here are a few quick ideas that empower them and make your life a bit easier as you prepare for a return to in-person learning.