Navigating COVID and the Return to On-Campus Learning


August 15, 2023 | jamesclinic

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Adjusting to distance learning at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic was a challenge for many, kids and adults included. As school open to on-campus learning, a new adjustment period will take place. While you and your child may feel relieved to return to “normal” life this Fall, it doesn’t mean it will be easy. Read on to discover some tips and resources to make the transition back to in-person learning as smooth and enjoyable as possible.

Talk with your child about the coronavirus.

Speaking to your child about the facts surrounding the coronavirus can do a lot to quell anxieties or concerns they may still have about it. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) provides an informative fact sheet about what families need to know about COVID-19.

In addition to providing information about preventing the spread of the coronavirus and what you can do to protect yourself from it, the AAP offers helpful tips for talking to children about the pandemic. Suggestions include:

  • Reassure your children that scientists and doctors are doing all they can to learn as much as they can as fast as possible about the coronavirus and how to protect everyone from it.
  • Remind your children what they are in control of, including washing their hands, covering their mouths when they cough, and getting enough high quality sleep.
  • Stick to your regular routine as best as possible in order to reduce anxiety and provide a reassuring rhythm to your children’s days.
  • Limit your children’s exposure to media coverage on the coronavirus and address any misinformation they may have heard.
  • Model empathy and compassion for all those affected by the coronavirus, so that your children learn to do the same.

Manage your own anxiety.

One of the best ways to manage your child’s anxieties about their return to school is to manage your own, says the Child Mind Institute. Dealing with your own anxiety first is a powerful way to make your child feel safe and secure. The better you are able to successfully manage your own anxieties, related to the coronavirus or otherwise, the better you will be able to pass those skills to your children and the more resilient your entire family will be.

Suggestions for how to prioritize your own self-care and manage your anxiety during the time of coronavirus can be found here. Prioritizing healthy choices, setting realistic expectations and boundaries, and reconnecting with people and activities you enjoy are just a few ways you can reduce your own anxiety, as well as that of your children.

Foster a growth mindset.

Encouraging your child to develop a growth mindset is a great way to prepare them for their return to on-campus learning. What is a growth mindset? A growth mindset is a way of viewing challenges and setbacks as something that you are able to overcome. The team at Understood.org explains that children and adults with growth mindsets aren’t dismayed by challenges. Rather, they have a strong enough belief in their own abilities to develop the skills necessary to overcome the setbacks they face.

As your child prepares to return to on-campus learning, the more you can do to support their belief in their own abilities to handle challenges, the more prepared they will be to face the unknown. Ways to encourage a growth mindset include:

  • Remember that setbacks are normal and provide an opportunity for improvement
  • Encourage self-advocacy, so that your child knows it’s ok to ask for support, which will ultimately lead to improvement
  • Remind your child that what is hard to do now will likely become easier with time and work

Not all children are born with a growth mindset and even those who are can always develop it further. The good news is, with the right encouragement and practice, anyone can develop a growth mindset at any age. Discover more resources for fostering a growth mindset here.

Consult your child’s school.

Without a doubt your child’s school will have many new coronavirus rules and regulations in place. The more you can do to understand those regulations and make sure your child understands them too, the more prepared you both will be to return to campus. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has made many recommendations for how to keep students safe and reduce the spread of COVID-19 as schools re-open, it’s up to each school to implement them.

Exact guidelines are likely to vary among schools, so it is important to know exactly how your child’s school is handling the situation. Review new guidelines with your child prior to the start of school so they are not surprised by anything and they feel well-prepared to return to campus.

Observe how your child adjusts.

Once you’ve done all you can to prepare your child to return to on-campus learning it’s important to pay attention to how they make the transition. Even if you’ve done and said all the right things to prepare your child for the return to on-campus learning, it may still be a challenging transition.

Signs that your child may need some extra support include:

  • Excessive crying or irritability in young children
  • Regression to certain behaviors, such as bedwetting
  • Appearing sad
  • Excessively worrying
  • Unhealthy sleeping and/or eating habits
  • Excessive irritability or acting out in teens
  • Trouble paying attention or concentrating
  • Avoiding activities they once enjoyed
  • Unexplained aches and pains in the body
  • Alcohol or substance use

Not all children and young adults respond to stress and anxiety in the same way but being aware of signs of distress is your first step in supporting your child’s successful return to in-person learning.

Maintaining an on-going conversation about the developments surrounding the coronavirus, discussing what you can do as a family to protect yourselves from it, taking care of your own mental health, consulting your child’s school, and fostering growth mindsets in yourself and your children are all steps you can take to make a successful and enjoyable return to on-campus learning.

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