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Virtually or in the Classroom, Back to School 2020 will be A+ mazing!

By Tammy Donoho

As the summer slowly slips away, parents and caregivers’ thoughts turn like autumn leaves to back-to-school preparations. This year brings more uncertainty than usual. Some students will be learning from home, others will be in the classroom. Caregivers sending their children to school for traditional classroom instruction may feel anxious about safety protocols, while caregivers gearing up for more online instruction may feel overwhelmed remembering the burnout from the end of the virtual 2019/20 school year.

Many families are feeling unsure of the best instructional setting for 2020/21. And many may feel like they’re in some sort of time warp wondering “Is it a weekday or the weekend? Who knows?”

Back-to-school time typically leads to transitions which affect the whole family. There will likely be changes to family and home routines, new teachers, new classrooms, and maybe even a new school. This year brings the additional challenge of navigating transitions during a pandemic. Whether learning virtually, traditionally with in-class instruction, or homeschooling, children will be continuing their education and all families should feel supported in this effort.

Take-charge tips for a terrific school year:

  • Talk to your child:
      • Point out the positive aspects of starting school to create excitement about the first day of class.
      • Ask if your child is nervous or excited about school starting and if there is something that they hope to learn.
      • If they are going back into the classroom, ask if they feel safe, and if not, why?
  • Routine! Routine! Routine! Establishing routines for meals, homework, bedtime, and after school establishes expectations and helps lessen anxiety.
  • Build a parent-teacher relationship with open communication. If your child is distance learning suggest the teacher hold a virtual “Meet the Teacher Open House”.
  • Check out the school’s website before school starts to access helpful resources and information. There are usually pictures to familiarize students with the school. It might be fun for students to spot pictures of teachers and classmates.
  • Families are usually worn out after a full day of work and school. Here are some ideas to transition and decompress:
      • Greet your children with a smile and a hug.
      • Go for a car ride.
      • Go for a walk or bike ride.
      • Connect with friends virtually or by social distancing.
      • Have a light snack.
      • Be aware that children returning to traditional instruction after a longer than usual summer break may experience After-School Restraint Collapse.
      • Some additional suggestions for distance learners:
          • Pack up school supplies daily to mark the end of the school day.
          • Celebrate the end of the school day with this playful dismissal. Ring a bell or set an alarm, announce “School is dismissed!!!” Escort your child out the door and back in again. (A little jaunt around the inside of your home will work as well.) Welcome them “home” with a smile and a hug!
      • Give everybody a break! Provide time for independent play. This may be TV, video games, a puzzle, or your family’s choice. 
  • Maintain family bonding time with activities for children and teens.
  • Practice self-care. If you need help or find yourself feeling overwhelmed, reach out to trusted adults in your community. 

Remember to laugh! Despite careful planning, things aren’t always going to run like clockwork.The most valuable lessons are often learned when things don’t go as planned. Sometimes you have to breathe and go with the flow!  


Photo 1 by August de Richelieu from Pexels; Photos 2 and 3 courtesy of Unsplash.