This year, returning to school looks and feels different. The usual mixed emotions about returning to school may be heightened with COVID-19 safety concerns. Health experts from AdventHealth provided Lake County families eight general tips to incorporate into their back-to-school plans and prepare for their child’s new environment. 1) Participate in Safe Back-to-School Activities Learn whether the school organizes virtual get-togethers, such as a back-to-school night, prior to the start of the new school year. Meeting their teacher(s), seeing their classroom and getting to know some of the other kids can go a long way to increase kids’ comfort level at school.
2) Establish New Routines Setting and maintaining routine is important to kids to help them feel more comfortable and know what they should expect on a daily basis. Make sure your child knows and understands any new expectations with the upcoming school schedule, including chores, homework, mask wearing, hand hygiene, wake-up and bedtimes and mealtimes. This structure will carry over into the school day and can help a child acclimate to the new routines.
3) Share the Excitement 'Talk up' the benefits of the school. This may mean focusing on how they can see classmates once again, play with others for recess, ride the bus to school like a “big kid” or how they can attend art or music class every week.
4) Acknowledge and Validate Their Emotions It’s important to acknowledge everything a child is feeling, especially at the start of the school year since it can cause anxiety. This level of emotional support should continue throughout the year to help head off many emerging issues. Make conversations about their school day as an expected part of the family routine. Dinnertime is a great opportunity to ask about the best part of his or her day, along with the most challenging aspects. Finding out sooner rather than later that a child is experiencing challenges increases the chances to help him or her resolve them.
5) Help Them Face Challenges with Schoolwork Remember that moving up to the next grade level often comes with increased difficulty of school assignments for students. Virtual courses may bring additional challenges without in-person peer-to-peer and child-to-teacher support. Some kids welcome the new challenge, while others take a little more time to adjust.
6) Organizing the Night Before Help organize your child’s school supplies, lunch and homework before school starts. Having their backpack, homework, mask (if required), packed lunch or lunch money, and shoes ready by the door leads to less stress at the start of a school day.
7) Encourage Them to Get Involved Seek out safe opportunities for them to get involved with activities your child enjoys. Organized or virtual activities such as sports, music groups and chess club help children associate positive memories with school while meeting new friends with the same interests.
8) Stay Rested and Healthy Fuel your child’s body and brain with plenty of sleep on school nights and a nutritious breakfast, so they'll be ready for the day’s challenges.
“Getting a healthy amount of sleep is an important factor in mood, attention span, and academic achievement. Good sleep hygiene is important. Stick to a consistent sleep schedule even on the weekends. Practice a bedtime routine,” said Stefoni Stratton, PA, an AdventHealth pediatric provider. “Get daily exercise to improve sleep. Maintain a cool, quiet, and dark sleep environment.”
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